Union conference will highlight the harsh reality of austerity

By agency reporter
November 7, 2012

As part of 'Living Wage Week' the Northern TUC will be holding a conference on 'Wages, Poverty and Pay Day Loans: the reality of austerity'.

The Trades Union Congress event will take place on Friday 9 November 2012 at St Mary's Centre in Middlesbrough. It aims to highlight and understand the scale of in-work poverty in the North East.

It will show how austerity measures have depressed wages and increased the squeeze on living standards and hardship of people in low wage work. Attendees will hear a keynote speech from Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison.

The conference will hear that:
* The majority of children living in poverty are in households where at least one person is in work
* £6 billion each year is spent in benefits and tax credits to top up the wages of low paid employees
* Over 90 per cent of new housing benefit claims are made by people in work
* If the national minimum wage had increased in line with top earners, it would be more than £19 per hour today
* More than one in five workers in the north east earn less than a 'living wage' (£7.45 per hour)

The event will explore the range of social and economic problems created by declining wages as well as identifying some of the practical solutions that are required to prevent a downward spiral for many workers and their families. As well as the keynote speech there will be three dedicated sessions focussing on the key issues of:

* Poverty Pay and a Living Wage
* Pay day loans and financial inclusion
* Tackling poverty at home and abroad

All the speakers and contributors are experts in their field and bring experience of key findings and developments that will be of real use in workplaces, communities and beyond. The event will culminate with the Kenny bell Memorial Lecture, which will be given by John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison said: "Our campaign for a living wage makes economic sense. It builds on the minimum wage that this union was instrumental in establishing. It helps eradicate in-work poverty, it raises living standards for millions of families and works towards a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Studies have shown that the living wage raises morale and productivity and cuts turnover and absenteeism. And local economies benefit as workers have more money to spend in local shops and businesses. There can be no argument that can justify poverty wages in the 21st century."

John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want added: "The austerity programme being rolled out across Britain represents a vicious assault on working families and the most vulnerable in our society. That same threat is being played out in different ways in local communities across the world, and our response to it must be a concerted resistance that demands a better future for all. Internationalism is the greatest strength of the labour movement, and never has it been more important than today."

Lastly, Vic Mackay, Chair of Financial Inclusion North East (Fincan) commented: "FINCAN is pleased to be attending the TUC's Poverty Event in Middlesbrough. As a network of organisations delivering financial inclusion work, we support our members to take a joint approach and share their learning across the North East. From introducing young people to banking, to increasing access to welfare reform advice and tackling debts, our members are working daily to improve the lives of those using their services. In difficult economic times this type of work takes on an even greater importance as more people struggle with their household budgets. FINCAN supports TUC in raising awareness of these issues and looking for the solutions that really matter."

The event will be chaired by Clare Williams, chair of the TUC Women's Group and Regional Convenor of Unison. Other speakers on the day include: Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, Barry Coppinger, PCC Candidate for Cleveland, Julie Young, PCS, Judith Kirton-Darling, Confederal Secretary of ETUC, Professor Rob MacDonald, Deputy Director, Social Futures Institure, Teesside University and Elaine Gilmour, Pioneer Credit Union, Middlesbrough CVL development Officer.


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