A THIRD of the workforce in Bournemouth and Poole are key workers, new figures show.

Leading trade unions say critical workers across the UK are risking their health for the public good but remain “scandalously” low paid.

Key workers are those seen as essential to the coronavirus response, and include health and social care staff, delivery drivers, supermarket employees and many others.

Bournemouth was home to 34,000 key workers in 2019, Office for National Statistics figures show.

This is equal to 33 per cent of the area’s workforce – the same as the UK average.

In Poole there were 26,000 key workers, 36 per cent of the workforce.

A separate analysis by jobs website Check-a-Salary shows the average salary for a full-time key worker in Dorset is £28,923.

That is higher than the £19,344 that would be received working 40 hours per week at the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour, which is set by the Living Wage Foundation.

But the analysis also shows the lowest 10 per cent of earners take home an average of £21,371, while the lowest paid key workers, nursery nurses, earn an average of just £17,942.

The Trades Union Congress says around 40 per cent of key workers across the country are paid less than £10 an hour, compared to just 30 per cent of non-key workers, with general secretary Frances O’Grady saying they now deserve a pay rise as a thank you for keeping Britain going through the pandemic.

She said: “Frontline workers are putting their own health on the line to look after the rest of us. They are caring for the sick and vulnerable, getting us to work, keeping our shelves stocked and our vital services running.

“Now it’s time for ministers to give key workers a proper thank you. And that means getting money into their pockets now.”

There are 10.6 million key workers across the UK, in a workforce of 32.6 million.

The largest proportion of key workers in the South West and across the country are those in health and social care, making up 11 per cent of the workforce in the region.

The GMB union is calling for a Coronavirus Crisis Allowance to be paid to all front-line workers, which would provide an additional payment to boost their wages.

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, said: “This crisis has shown everyone just how crucial so many workers are fighting this pandemic. Yet far too many remain scandalously low paid despite being crucial to our health, safety and well-being.

“Millions of key workers are risking their health for the public good and they shouldn’t be going home to their families with poverty pay in their purses and pockets.”

A petition by Citizens UK is calling for all key workers to be paid the Living Wage of £9.30 per hour outside of London and £10.75 per hour in London, including a £1.4 billion boost to care sector salaries.