Council workers in line for 'living wage' rise
AN army of council cleaners, cooks and carers could be given pay rises next year.
Neath Port Talbot Council is in talks with union leaders over the prospect of introducing a "living wage" that would leave its least-paid staff better off.
It means those on the two lowest bands would see their hourly wage go up from around £6.40 an hour, or less, to £7.20, at a cost to the authority of some £500,000.
Unison branch secretary Mark Fisher said around 500 of the union's members were on the two lowest pay bands.
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"It will predominantly affect catering, cleaning and caring staff who are mostly women and part-time workers, while a lot of them are single mums," he said.
"It's an excellent opportunity to boost their pay packets.
"We have not had a pay rise in local government for the last three years but inflation has continued to rise during that time.
"People are becoming worse off and the lowest paid are feeling it the hardest. We want to help them with our proposals to introduce a living wage."
The current minimum wage is £6.08 for workers aged 21 years and over.
Swansea Council has already said it is committed to introducing a higher rate of pay to around 3,000 of its lowest-paid employees from next April, but is still considering how much that will be.
Speaking last month, city council leader David Phillips said the authority's lowest-paid workers had the right to expect a living wage.
He said: "The council has made tacking poverty one of its priorities, and by increasing the income for our lowest-paid staff we can help to improve their standard of living.
"Our lowest-paid staff are doing some of the most important and challenging jobs in the council and we believe they should be paid a decent salary for their work."
Also in August, Unison called on Neath Port Talbot Council to introduce it for its staff. A spokesman for the union said the local authority could show "leadership to the wider community" by upping the rate it paid its workers. At the time the council said it would be meeting the union to discuss the proposals.
Mr Fisher confirmed "productive and meaningful" talks had since taken place between the council leadership and Unison with a view to introducing a living wage next April. It would cost around £500,000 a year according to the union.
Mr Fisher said council leader Ali Thomas had recognised the moral need to assist the low paid at a time of financial difficulty.
"We welcome the leadership of the council recognising that this is an important issue and the need to prioritise this matter," he said.
"The low paid on minimal wage or just above it are struggling to make ends meet.
"Even by increasing pay to the living wage it does not make them well paid but it does help.
"It will be a boost for the local economy as well. The more money we put into their pay packets, the more money will be spent with local businesses," he added.
A Neath Port Talbot Council spokesman said: "An initial meeting has taken place, and a constructive dialogue with the unions is now under way."