Workers in Cornwall have again been placed bottom of the South West pay league in the latest report to highlight wage inequalities.
Full-time employees living in the county had the lowest gross average earnings in the region last year, earning £25,155 or 77% of the UK average of £32,659, the survey claims.
Only one of the 15 areas in the greater South West topped the national average, prompting unions to claim the figures deal yet another blow to government plans to peg public sector salaries at local private sector levels.
Opponents of the plans in Cornwall say the true picture is actually far bleaker, with council figures putting residents’ earnings at just £21,993 against the South West average of £24,640.
John Phillips, regional secretary of the GMB, which produced the study, said regional pay proposals “dumb down” wages to the lowest common denominator, making local economies suffer.
He added: “National agreements mean that earnings in the UK regions are fair and equality-proof and allows public sector employees to be more mobile. The impact of regionalising public sector pay would be to reduce the amount of disposable income in each local community and drive them further into recession.”
The figures are based on a GMB survey of the 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings from the Office of National Statistics.
In the 15 regions in the greater South West, including Gloucestershire, the gross average earnings for full-time resident workers was £29,420 or 90% of the national average. Workers living in North Somerset were the only ones to earn above average, receiving £33,242 per year, or 102%.
Dorset topped the table in the Westcountry, at £30,182, with Somerset coming in at £28,686.
Devon followed, at £27,233, but Plymouth was lower at £25,788, followed by Torbay with £25,736, and Cornwall propping up the table.
Andrew Wallis, independent Cornwall councillor for Porthleven and Helston South, said the report confirmed a problem which needed to be addressed.
“Historically it has always been low paid, but that does not make it right,” he added.
“There are a number of reasons: its remoteness, a lack of big industry and the difficulty in bringing in investors.”
However, when part-time earnings are added into the equation, the real wage for many workers is much lower.
Figures taken from Cornwall Council’s economic development unit place full and part-time earnings at £17,201 – using this formula, the South West earns £19,609.
And for those living and working in areas seeing the worst pay scales, the average drops further with South East Cornwall registering a lowly £13,940.
Mr Wallis added: “It is bad enough for Cornwall to be paid far less than parts of the UK, but even within the borders of Cornwall the wage-scales are vastly different.
“It is shocking to see these differences – this must change, but if the Government gets its way, we could see many people being paid far less than they currently are.”
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