A candidate for the European Parliament visited Bexhill after hearing how the town has been slammed as the south east’s worst living wage black-spot.
As reported in last week’s Observer, Bexhill and Battle was recently named and shamed as the region’s worst-performing parliamentary constituency in terms of locals’ earning what is considered a living wage – currently set at £7.65, or £8.80 in London.
That is the amount experts consider a worker needs to be paid per hour in order to sustain a stress-free standard of living.
According to the TUC, 34.5 per cent – more than one in three - of the jobs based locally are paying less than the living wage benchmark.
And when the figures were applied purely to female workers the picture looked even more bleak, with 43.7 per cent of jobs pay less than the living wage.
Having seen the findings Anneliese Dodds, a Labour candidate for the forthcoming European elections, visited Bexhill to highlight the problem to party members, meet locals and explain what can be done in Brussels to help rectify the issue as well as outlining other positives of EU membership.
She said: “It was great to meet with Bexhill residents and find out about their concerns. We discussed how European laws mean that every British worker has the right to some paid holidays every year.
“It’s essential that we keep these protections so that British workers don’t become second class citizens in Europe and can have enough time to spend with their families.”
The MEP hopeful argued the low wages were a direct result of the coalition government watering down the protections for low-paid workers, to the extent that unscrupulous employers can now bring in foreign workers under contracts for less than the minimum wage.
And she warned against falling for scaremongering over the threat of migrants – maintaining the problem with low wages is not a result of an influx of foreign workers, but of failings by the current government to protect British workers.
During her visit she met Bexhill’s Sally Longhurst who told the politician she has been unsuccessful at finding permanent employment and explained the difficulties young working people now have when presented with zero hours contracts, and also, the bad employment practices that employers are now able to use.