FLAGS and banners were raised in the town centre yesterday as demonstrators took to the streets to protest about wages at Next.

Members of GMB union were outside the Regent Street store claiming the company needs to increase the wages of staff from the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour to a living wage of £7.45.

A spokesman for Next, however, denied the claims that they were not paying the living wage.

Carole Vallelly, organiser of GMB in Swindon and Wiltshire, said: “GMB have been carrying out protests outside Next stores up and down the country.

“Next expect their profits to be up to £620m for the year up to January 2013.

“Next recently advertised a job for as low as £4.42 per hour, and are only paying £2.65 to apprentices.

“We think it is only fair they share their profits with their employees.

“By paying staff minimum wage or less, this will put an unnecessary burden on welfare in that employee incomes are subsidised by the taxpayer through working and family tax credits.

“It could be seen as the taxpayer subsiding Next profits.

“If Next raised wages for all staff by £1 per hour, the company would still make profits in excess of £550m per year.

“People I have been talking to are very supportive of the campaign for a living wage. Paying £7.45 an hour isn’t a lot to ask.

“GMB are holding regular demonstrations against Next across the country, until they do the decent thing and pay their staff a minimum living wage.”

About 10 GMB union members were outside the store yesterday.

The living wage is a benchmark and is not a legal minimum level of pay, like the national minimum wage.

The minimum wage for apprentices is currently £2.65, for under 18s it is £3.68, for 18 to 20-year-olds it is £4.98, and £6.19 for people over the age of 21.

A Next spokesman said: “Next does pay a living wage, which is why it has over 30 applications for every store vacancy.

“Next’s warehouse staff receive an average of £9.16, including bonus, for every hour worked.”

Staff inside the town centre store said they were unable to comment.

For more information visit www.gmb-southern.org.uk.