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BECTU brands new National Living Wage ‘a step forward’

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BECTU has extended a cautious welcome to the government’s new National Living Wage, branding it a “step forward” but insisting young backstage workers now face further age discrimination.

The new statutory minimum wage was introduced on April 1, increasing the lowest legal rate of pay from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 an hour – but only for workers over 25.

The government has pledged this will rise to £9 an hour by 2020.

Workers aged 21-24 will continue to be paid £6.70 an hour, while 18-20 year olds will receive £5.30 and those under 18 will get £3.87. First-year apprentices will be paid £3.30 an hour.

BECTU has long supported the non-statutory living wage, which is currently £9.20 in London and £8.25 elsewhere.

Speaking to The Stage, general secretary Gerry Morrissey said the union welcomed the National Living Wage, but said it was “clear that our lowest paid workers will still struggle”.

He also spoke out against the age-banding of different minimum pay levels, adding: “We also want to see an end to age discrimination in the statutory rules. Pay rates should be determined by the job you do, not by your date of birth.”

An additional statement on the union’s website said it did not believe the government would follow through in its promise to enforce the National Living Wage.

“If past experience is anything to go by, that promise may not be kept and if so the calls for greater transparency about enforcement activity will continue,” it said.

Pressure from BECTU has led to a number of theatres committing to pay the living wage for backstage, front of house and technical staff, including Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

Morrissey added: “We want to see more steadfast moves by employers towards the adoption of the living wage and that’s what our team supporting members in theatres and entertainment is focusing on with some success.”

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