One in four workers in Bolton does not receive “real living wages,” most of which are considered essential to responding to coronaviruses.
New estimates released by the National Statistics Office show that 23,000 jobs in the borough are not paid well enough.
Martin Challender, communications officer for the UNISON branch in Bolton, said, “One of the most important things for our industry is that many of our members work in private nursing homes, just above the salary minimum.
“It’s a pretty precarious situation for them right now that extends across the industry to delivery drivers, supermarket staff and cleaners.
“People are at minimum wage or just above it and with the COVID-19 crisis, many of these people are essential.
“The fact that the government is ready to spend billions on the crisis shows that we can afford to pay better wages.”
The “real living wage” is a voluntary scheme created by the Living Wage Foundation, a charitable organization that demands fair wages.
It is calculated independently of the government and is based on costs such as food, clothing and household bills.
The organization estimates that workers outside London need to earn £ 9.30 an hour to get a real living wage.
The national statutory wage (NLW), the statutory hourly rate for workers over 25, is £ 8.72.
These figures suggest that hundreds of thousands of key workers across the country are earning wages that are too low to cover their cost of living.
Vital roles where staff are underpaid include cleaners and porters, teaching assistants and caregivers.
UNISON has pushed employers in Bolton to ensure they pay workers a fair wage and has seen some workplaces offer higher wages for workers.
Challender added, “We have had some success with employers, but it is a tough battle.
“This current crisis shows that we cannot return to millions of low-paid people.
“When it’s over, people will say that we want to be treated much better as workers.”
This year’s NLW increase will see 2.4 million of the country’s lowest-paid workers receive almost £ 1,000 more a year.
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said, “It is fair to ensure that the lowest wages are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, especially those working in essential services during the greatest threat this country has faced in decades. “
Economists, however, called for further increases before the full picture of the crisis was clear.