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Carmarthenshire Council criticised over living wage plea

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

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CARMARTHENSHIRE Council should not wish its staff a “Happy Christmas”, councillors were told after calls for an immediate pay rise were rejected.

Opposition leader Plaid’s councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths said the council should be ashamed it was not going to immediately pay its lowest earning staff a ‘‘living wage’’.

He was speaking at a meeting of full council yesterday before which members of the union Unison, had held a protest on the steps of County Hall.

Mr Griffiths said to the councillors: “You will wish them ‘Happy Christmas’ — and you know we are not paying them a decent wage.”

The living wage is set at £7.45 per hour, as opposed to the minimum wage of £6.38.

The council’s executive board has already agreed to wait for guidance from the Welsh Government before making a decision.

Plaid councillor Alun Lenny challenged council leader, Labour councillor Kevin Madge, to agree to pay the living wage now.

Mr Lenny said to the chairwoman: “Is Kevin Madge, as a socialist, is he embarrassed — even ashamed — that his administration is not prepared to pay staff enough, that they live on state benefits?”

He said even the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson in London was in favour of offering the living wage.

Mr Madge said the extra pay to meet the demand would cost the county council £1.75 million, which was impossible without central government funding.

Mr Madge replied: “I challenge you to tell me where we will make these savings?

“Please don’t play politics with something where you haven’t even said where you would get these resources.”

He said: “We would like to implement this but central government have cut backs at all levels.

“This would result in 80 to 100 of our workers being made redundant.

“I am not prepared to give pay rises to some people to make others redundant.”

Earlier, Unison members lobbied councillors on the steps of County Hall as they arrived for the meeting.

Carmarthenshire branch secretary Mark Evans said more jobs would be lost unless a stand was made against cuts imposed by Westminster and Cardiff.

It was announced yesterday that all staff at the Welsh Assembly would be paid the living wage.

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