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Miliband's minimum wage vow.

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Reporter rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia

FOLK on Tyneside would be among the biggest winners under Labour plans to boost the minimum wage, unions say.

Party leader Ed Miliband announced this week he will raise the rate to PS8 an hour by 2020.

It will be raised to PS6.50 next month but many say those on the lowest wages are still struggling to make ends meet.

The Low Pay Commission found that the North East has the highest proportion of people paid at or below the minimum wage (7.5% compared with 2.9% in London) and unions say the plans could accelerate the region's economic recovery.

Neil Foster, Policy and Campaigns Officer for the Northern TUC, said: "Given that we have a higher proportion of people on the minimum wage than anywhere in Britain, this stands to be a big boost for the North East's low paid workers.

"Raising low pay boosts spending power in local economies, reduces financial hardship and help make work pay.

"With 76,000 workers in the North East currently paid at the minimum wage, many stand to gain from pay rises.

"After years of falling real pay we need a range of policies to ensure fairer pay from board level to the shop floor.

"The TUC believes Britain needs a pay rise and a real recovery for people in work. That is why people in our region are joining thousands around the country in London on October 18 for a national demonstration for fairer pay."

Mr Miliband made the announcement as the Labour party conference begins in Manchester this week.

Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North and Labour's Treasury spokeswoman, said more should be done to increase job security but a pledge to boost wages was a step in the right direction.

She said: "Increasing the minimum wage to PS8 an hour by 2020 will make a huge difference to many households across the North East.

"The single biggest issue facing many of my constituents is the daily juggle to make ends meet, which has got so much harder under this Government.

"Far too many people in our region - often women - are trapped in low paid, insecure work, and we must restore the link between being in a job and economic security.

"Increasing the minimum wage in this way is a key step to achieving this."

But the move was criticised by businesses in the North East.

Ted Salmon, North East Regional Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said politicians are playing politics with the issue and that it should be left to an independent body.

He said: "I think the politicians should leave this alone and leave it to the people at the Low Pay Commission who know what they are talking about.

"The commission was appointed by the Government to come up with recommendations and I don't see why we need to change that.

"If the economy continues to grow at the level it is then we will get there naturally anyway.

"This isn't something which should be used as a political football."

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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