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The battle for UK Living Wage

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - 01:44

Businesses in Britain - like many other countries including the US - are under pressure to pay better wages. Finance minister George Osborne has raised the statutory minimum from 6 pounds 70 to 7 pounds 20 an hour, starting from April. But campaigners say London is so expensive, workers can't survive on less than nine pounds. Elena Casas reports

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REENDING WITH AMENDED NAME CAPTION German supermarket chain Lidl is known for its low prices - but that doesn't mean fewer pennies in its staff's pockets. It pays all its 17 thousand British staff a living wage - at least 8 pounds 20 an hour across the UK, and rising to 9 pounds 35 in London. UK CEO Ronny Gottschlich says business is booming - so the firm can easily afford the raise. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UK CEO LIDL 'Our annual turnover is now 4 billion pounds, and we're seeing more than 5.5 million customers coming through our doors, so this naturally gives us the opportunity to pay something back to our employees and it makes me proud to give that back to them.' Campaigners say every business should be paying at least nine pounds 15 an hour in London - but around a quarter of employees still earn less. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HACKNEY FOOD BANK MANAGER, LIZA CUCCO, SAYING: 'When people are getting paid less than the cost of living, it's very difficult to keep themselves out of crisis situations." Companies argue the cost of doing business in the capital is so high, they just can't afford to pay more. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SMALL BUSINESS FEDERATION, LIESL SMITH, SAYING: 'They have a choice - they can either put prices up, perhaps streamline or reduce their staff, or they can take a hit on profits - so it's a really tough decision for businesses to make.' Trade union Unite says pay rates are particularly low in retail, restaurants and London's luxury hotels - sectors that often employ foreign workers who don't know their rights and often move on quickly. Campaigners are now calling on Londoners and visitors to vote with their feet - and boycott hotels and restaurant chains who aren't paying the living wage.

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The battle for UK Living Wage

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - 01:44