Lewisham has been exposed as one of the worst boroughs in London for low pay.
Lewisham and Bexley are two of the worst paid boroughs in the capital, according to a recent report from independent think tank, Centre for London.
In the capital, an average of 2.9 per cent of workers are paid the minimum wage or below, whereas in Lewisham, 5.2 per cent of workers earn the minimum wage and under.
Surprisingly, Lewisham was the first London borough to decide to pay their council employees and sub-contracted employees the London Living Wage from March 2012 onwards. However the Living Wage is a voluntary initiative for councils and employers and companies in Lewisham have no legal obligation to implement it.
Darren Johnson, Green councillor for Brockley, said: “These figures illustrate that far more needs to be done to ensure Lewisham employers pay the living wage. We need a real push for all companies and organisations to adopt the living wage because the minimum wage simply isn’t enough money for Londoners to survive on.”
Johnson added: “There are concrete things the council can do, such as naming and shaming those companies who aren’t paying up.”
The minimum wage for workers over the age of 21 is £6.31, whereas the London Living Wage is £8.80 per hour.
Tony Reay, head of the London Public Commercial Services Union and Lewisham Trades Council, said: “This is not a new phenomenon. Chronic underinvestment has made Lewisham high on the indices of social deprivation for a long time and successive governments have contributed to the current issue of low wages.”
Reay added: “We need greater regulation for the London living wage, it should not be voluntary and there should be no difference between the minimum wage and the living wage.”
“If the government is trying to get people into work, it must be prepared to invest money in wages. We need fair contracts, not zero hour contracts.”
Reay said that the Lewisham Trades Council was taking concrete steps to ensure local employers and high street stores pay the living wage in Lewisham. He added that an increasing number of high street chains had signed up to the scheme but more work needed to be done.
The policies of the Trades Council are in line with the recommendations from the report, which argue that wage regulation should be devolved to local authority level.
Johnson also argued that adopting the living wage actually reduced costs for employers: “Rather than pushing costs up, it does the opposite – you have a better motivated workforce, less sickness and absenteeism and reduced recruitment costs due to a lower turnover of staff. Therefore, a properly paid workforce makes sense for employers as well as being the moral thing to do for employees.”
The report was unable to provide statistics for the amount of people in Lewisham receiving less than the minimum wage. Nationally, there are 300,000 people receiving less than the minimum.
Lewisham council were not able to provide a comment on the issue.