A SUMMIT is taking place in Wirral today aimed at increasing wages for low-paid workers.
The event brings together council leaders, MPs and senior trade unionists from across the region to look at strategies for tackling low pay and living standards.
The North West Living Wage Summit gets underway this morning at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion.
As one of the first local authorities in the country to become a Living Wage employer, Wirral Council is taking the lead in establishing a regional network of local authorities committed to the principle.
Councillor Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council and chairman of the new Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: “I am absolutely committed to protecting the lowest paid and in December 2012, we became one of the first councils in the country to guarantee all our staff a Living Wage.
“When working people are facing benefit cuts while struggling with rising bills, it is vital the public sector and other large employers pay a realistic and fair wage.
"Everyone should have the opportunity to adequately provide for themselves and their families."
Councillor Davies said other local authorities, including Salford and Preston City Councils, have launched successful initiatives to tackle the issue and Wirral wants to encourage more employers follow suit.
The Living Wage is currently set at £7.65 an hour, while the legal minimum wage is £6.31.
The wage is set independently and updated annually and is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.
Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis.
The summit will showcase positive stories from other councils and employers, including the experience of Nigel Hughes, chief executive of YMCA Wirral, which was the first YMCA in the country to pay a living wage.
Birkenhead MP Frank Field will be leading a discussion on current national and regional strategies.
Lynn Collins, regional secretary of North West TUC, said: “Some 571,000 workers across the North West are being paid less than the living wage.
"With in-work poverty growing, it’s not hard to see why so many families are struggling to make household budgets stretch to cover the cost of everyday essentials.
“Employers across the North West will reap the benefits of paying staff a living wage with improved retention of staff, loyalty and production.
"Increasing the number of people who are paid at least the living wage would mean huge savings for the public purse in extra taxes paid and fewer benefits claimed.”
An independent study found employers believed the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff and reduced absence.