SUNDERLAND’S largest housing provider has agreed to pay the Living Wage to ensure its staff are able to make ends meet.
Trade union Unison has been in negotiations with Gentoo, which employs 1,600 workers across the city, and an agreement has now been reached with immediate effect.
Unions are fighting for businesses throughout the country to introduce the wage, currently £7.45 per hour, so that workers don’t have to work multiple jobs or excessive hours to survive.
Steve Lanaghan, director of corporate services at Gentoo, said: “We are delighted that after a couple of very challenging years, the group is in a position to offer some of our employees a pay increase.
“The first item on the group’s agenda, when entering the pay negotiations, was the introduction of the Living Wage for 2013/14. We believed that some of our employees were struggling to make ends meet and we saw this as helping them achieve an acceptable standard of living.
“We were delighted that the new pay deal was also supporting the Trade Unions’ national campaign for the introduction of the Living Wage.”
Unions argue the introduction of the Living Wage leads to greater productivity, improved staff retention, lower recruitment and training costs, decreased absenteeism and a motivated workforce.
Helen Coomer, Unison regional organiser, said: “Low pay is a blight on too many people’s lives.
“People employed on the minimum wage are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet for themselves and their families.”
Clare Williams, Unison’s regional convenor, said, “Our Living Wage campaign is aimed at highlighting the impact that low pay has on both individuals and on the regional economy.
“In this region we are regularly seeing food banks being opened and many of our members are struggling financially.
“In terms of the regional economy, implementing a Living Wage would give workers greater spending power and therefore lead to money being put back into the local economy.
“The Living Wage would provide a vital economic stimulus to help further regional economic recovery.”
l Employers can choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis. It is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy, and is £1.26 an hour higher than the statutory Minimum Wage of £6.19.