Unions staged a demonstration in Market Place today to protest against Kirklees Council’s failure to pay its staff a ‘living wage’.
Demonstrators also held a rally outside Calderdale Council offices, at Northgate House, Halifax, as part of a national day of protest against councils which do not pay their staff at least £7.65 per hour.
Outside London, a worker needs to earn at least £7.65 an hour to have an acceptable basic standard of living, according to the Living Wage Foundation.
Union GMB says more than 500,000 council workers in the UK are on less than the living wage.
Among the 12,000 Kirklees Council employees, 1,800 are paid less than £7.65 an hour.
Almost all of these jobs, paid as little as £6.36 an hour, are held by women and 88% are part-time.
Jobs at these wages are usually in the cleaning, catering and museums sectors. Meanwhile, Kirklees Council pays six of its staff £51 per hour and the director of children’s services £61 an hour.
Of 300 local authorities in the UK, 100 pay all their staff a living wage while 100 are considering whether to follow suit.
But Kirklees is one of 100 councils – and one of 13 Labour-led councils – not paying or considering whether to pay a living wage, says Paul Holmes, secretary for Kirklees Unison.
Mr Holmes said: "Kirklees underspent by £5m last year and they reckon it will cost £500,000 to £800,000 to pay a living wage.
"Kirklees can afford to pay but it says it is looking at other issues. Two of Huddersfield’s biggest employers, Huddersfield University and Kirklees College, pay a living wage."
Mr Holmes says many of its 6,500 Kirklees Council members are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
He said: "I hear stories of payday loans and visiting food banks. People who are caring for pensioners and serving food are visiting food banks and there has been a massive rise in personal bankruptcies."
Calderdale Council is debating whether to pay a living wage supplement to those of its employees on low pay.
Gary Baker from Calderdale GMB said: "The public have been very understanding even though there’s been all this rhetoric from the Government.“People generally agree that people should be on a living wage."