The minimum wage should be raised to £15 an hour, the Trades Union Congress says, as it declares it is “time to put an end to low-pay Britain”.
Currently, workers aged 23 and over are entitled to a minimum wage of £9.50 with lower rates for younger employees, but the TUC says all workers should have the same entitlement, regardless of age.
Since the minimum wage was introduced, its level as a proportion of the median wage has increased – starting at 47% in 1999 and expected to reach 66% by 2024, although the TUC said that a more ambitious target of 75% is the “logical next step”.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Every worker should be able to afford a decent standard of living.
“But millions of low-paid workers live wage packet to wage packet, struggling to get by – and they are now being pushed to the brink by eye-watering bills and soaring prices.
“For too long workers have been told that businesses can’t afford to pay them more. But again and again the evidence has shown that firms are still making profits and increasing jobs – we can afford higher wages.
“And higher wages are good for the economy – more money in the pockets of working people means more spend on our high streets.
“It’s time to put an end to low-pay Britain. Let’s get wages rising in every corner of the country and get on the pathway to a £15 per hour minimum wage.”
She said ministers should introduce fair pay agreements to increase pay and productivity in low-paid sectors; promote decent work above shareholder interests; and invest in good jobs in every part of the country.
“That’s how you boost pay packets and put Britain on a direct path to a £15 minimum wage.”
Proposals also include corporate governance reforms and a “life-long learning and skills strategy” designed to address labour shortages.
Those two issues are the main drivers of a cost of living crisis that has prompted workers in some sectors to resort to industrial action as their wages fail to keep up.
The TUC said that the UK has experienced a “pay loss of historic proportions” due to an “abject failure” by successive Conservative governments to encourage pay rises.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics said workers suffered a record real-term pay slump of 4.1% after inflation in the three months to June.
When inflation was not factored in, regular pay, excluding bonuses, rose by 4.7% in the three months to June.