Unions in the North East will today kick off two weeks of action calling for fairer pay after research showed people in the region are earning an average of £1,321 less than they were two years ago.
The figures released by the TUC to mark the start of Fair Pay Fortnight also show that the gap between the pay of top earners and the lowest-paid in the region is growing.
Union members will be campaigning on fair pay today outside Berwick Infirmary, in Northumberland, and also holding events at North Shields, Hexham, South Shields, Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland this week.
The campaign will see stalls set up at a number of other towns and cities in the region – including Gateshead, Morpeth and Blaydon – leading up to a conference on in-work poverty which is being staged at Newcastle’s civic centre on April 3.
A spokesman for the Northern TUC said: “Throughout the fortnight volunteers and campaigners will engage with members of the public about how their living standards have been affected in recent years.
“People will also be asked to sign a petition which calls on David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to put fair pay at the top of the political agenda as we approach the election.”
An analysis of official figures showed that between 2000 and 2013 the top 10% of earners in London took home an average of £82,000, while in the North East it is only £45,000 – the lowest rate in England.
The union organisation said wage inequality had risen by 4.5% across the UK since 2000 and said the loss of earnings in the North East was the equivalent of 23 average weekly shops, a year’s energy bills or 18.5 tanks of fuel for the average car.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This new analysis shows how wage inequality has soared in parts of the UK over the last decade. This growing pay gap is bad news for our economy and bad news for living standards.”
She added: “Everyone must benefit from the recovery, not just those at the top. The TUC wants to see a greater commitment to pay the living wage from both government and employers, a crackdown on excessive executive pay, and modern wages councils which could set higher minimum wages where employers can afford to pay more.”