DISCUSSIONS with trade unions have led to Wirral Council becoming one of the first in the UK to pay its apprentices the "living wage."

The change brings trainees' pay in-line with all other employees of the authority.

Council leader Phil Davies agreed the move following talks with Unison, Unite and GMB. It will affect 11 apprentices.

Councillor Davies said: “We are delighted to be able to commit to paying our apprentices the living wage that they deserve.

“I have met many of our apprentices who receive valuable training while working in diverse roles across the authority.

"I have seen first-hand the work they do, and the enthusiasm and commitment they bring to their workplace.

“I want to see every employer in Wirral working towards paying its employees a living wage."

He added: "It is not just about paying a fair wage, it is about finding and keeping excellent employees, and demonstrating they are valued."

Wirral was paying between £5.03 and £6.31 per hour, dependent upon age, and the change means apprentices will now receive £7.65 per hour.

Sam Jenkins, an apprentice in the neighbourhoods and engagement department, said: “The living wage will make a significant difference to me.

"It is almost £300 a month more than my previous pay. It will mean I can get to the end of the month without having to worry about what’s left in my bank account."

Phil Goodwin, branch secretary at Wirral Unison, said: “The economic recession has seen an increase in employers exploiting young workers by offering only low paid, low skill jobs.

"Young workers in Wirral deserve better. This agreement shows other Wirral employers a welcome alternative."

Allan Small of Unite said: “Unite is proud to be part of the negotiations that has delivered the agreement to pay the living wage to apprentices at Wirral Council.

"This will encourage more people to apply for apprenticeships in the future who would not normally have applied in the past because of the rate of pay for apprentices. It is a positive move for the future of Wirral Council and its workforce.”