Campaigners highlight “low wage culture” in Eastbourne

Eastbourne People's Assembly SUS-150311-142234001
Eastbourne People's Assembly SUS-150311-142234001

DGH staff and people working for Eastbourne Borough Council are working belong the living wage, according to activists who say there is a “culture of low pay” in the town.

Labour Party officials say 42 per cent of staff at Eastbourne Borough Council are paid less than the living wage, along with 27 per cent of employees at East Sussex County Council and 11 per cent of DGH staff.

Party spokesperson Jake Lambert said as it is Living Wage week, the party was keen to look at the situation for workers in Eastbourne.

He said, “Eastbourne has many staff employed in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors, all of which have traditionally been low-paid – although Morrisons and Lidl have recently joined the ranks of Living Wage employers.

“A number of other employers active in Eastbourne have also signed up to the Living Wage foundation’s accreditation, paying all staff over 18 £8.15 or more.

“Eastbourne Borough Council employed 741 in August, and 314 of these were paid less than the living wage. Shockingly, the council still takes advantage of the lower rates within the national minimum wage to pay under 21’s even less: 47 staff were paid less than the adult national minimum wage of £6,50.

“As for the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Eastbourne DGH, of a total workforce of 7,314 across the trust 790 people were paid less than the Living Wage.

“These figures lay bare the scandal of low pay in our town. Labour councils pay their staff the living wage, while our councillors are silent as food bank use rises in a culture of low pay in our town.

“Eastbourne needs more and better jobs, with wages that a family can live on and the council should be leading the way.” Local trade unionists have also hit out at the low-wage culture in Eastbourne’s public services, which were revealed after a Freedom of Information request from Eastbourne Trades Union Council.

Dave Brinson, secretary of Eastbourne Trades Union Council said, “I remember a couple of years ago being berated by an official of the borough council for my assertion that Eastbourne is a ‘low wage economy’. These figures seem not just to bear that out, but to show our local authorities are leading the way in perpetuating poverty pay in this town.”

“Brighton and Crawley councils are Living Wage employers, and Hastings Borough Council pays all of its directly engaged staff above the living wage rate. So does the Sussex Foundation NHS Trust.

“Why are our local councils and the DGH lagging behind?”

Eastbourne People’s Assembly held a demonstration in Banker’s Corner in the town centre at the weekend to mark the start of Living Wage Week.

Campaigners spoke to local people about the need for all workers to receive a Living Wage they can actually build a life upon.

The Living Wage Week runs from until November 7 and is in conjunction with the announcement of the uprating of the Living Wage as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

Campaigners say the Living Wage, now set at £8.25 an hour, is significantly higher than the current national Minimum Wage of £6.70 per hour, as well as higher than the increase in the Minimum Wage proposed by the government to begin next year. A spokesperson said, “We in the Eastbourne People’s Assembly call upon all local employers to follow their example and apply for recognition as Living Wage Employers themselves.

“In particular, we call upon Eastbourne Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, as well as East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, to urgently seek recognition as Living Wage employers in order to show leadership to other local employers.

“If Brighton & Hove, Crawley Borough, and Reading Borough Councils, and Sussex Community NHS Trust, have all successfully become Living Wage employers, why can’t our own local councils and health care trusts become the same?

“Too many hard-working families are falling into poverty, putting ever increasing pressure upon our now chronically under-resourced social care services, which are about to be hit next year by £40 million of further cuts imposed by East Sussex County Council.

“The proposed cuts in tax credits will only compound the situation, as they would take out more than £8 million per year from the local economy, severely impacting upon local businesses.

“If work is to pay and to be an effective route out of poverty, then work has to be rewarded fairly, and the Living Wage should be paid by all local employers, especially by all our local public sector employers.”

A spokesperson at Eastbourne Borough Council said, ““Despite ongoing cuts from Government in council funding, we are currently setting aside money in the budget to support the National Living Wage being introduced next April.”