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BBC finds Newcastle takeaways paying illegal wages

18 September 2008

Union leaders have reacted angrily to a television investigation which revealed staff in takeaways in the North East of England were being offered as little as £2.10-an-hour.

The illegal rates were exposed in a documentary made by BBC's Inside Out team who used an undercover journalist to tour restaurants in Newcastle in search of a job.

In just two hours, the Eastern European reporter was offered rates of pay well below the legal minimum of £5.52-an-hour.

At one kebab shop, she was asked to work from 6pm to 3.30am for £20 cash, according to the secretly-filmed report.

She was also asked to work "test" shifts without pay and all jobs offered were paid in cash without national insurance and tax deducted.

TUC regional secretary Kevin Rowan said: "One of the shocking things about this is how open and confident these employers are in offering what are clearly illegal terms and conditions.

"You can tell by the way they're talking that they have no fear about being prosecuted at all."

Jim Cousins, the Labour MP for Newcastle Central, added: "This is something which I have been concerned about for some time and have asked questions about it in Parliament.

"Over the last few years there have only been two prosecutions for paying below minimum wage nationally. There needs to be greater enforcement."

But employment minister Pat McFadden said: "There is a new Bill going through Parliament at the moment which will introduce an automatic penalty for any employer who does not pay the minimum wage to their staff.

"There is an extra £3m a year going into enforcing the national minimum wage over the next few years."

Read the investigation in full >>

Check out our dedicated page on the minimum wage >>

Opinion on the minimum wage by Pat McFadden >>
BBC exposes the Dorchester hotel over tips >>

Government bows to pressure for fair wages in restaurants >>

How do I calculate the national minimum wage? >>

By Nigel Green

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