On April 1st, George Osborne’s so-called ‘living wage’ of £7.20/hour for workers aged 25 and over comes into force. Labour Alternative welcomes every pay increase for workers, but this measure falls far short of the Living Wage Foundation’s call for £8.25/hour, never mind the £10/hour minimum wage correctly demanded by the Trades Union Congress.
Workers under 25, like all of our candidates, will be exempt from the ‘living wage’, falling further behind and become a reserve of super-exploited, cheap labour. Our work is no less valuable. We don’t get discounts on our rent or our bills because we’re young. Youth exemptions must be scrapped.
There is no lack of wealth in society. Since 2008, the wealth of the UK’s billionaires has quadrupled. Around £120 billion goes unpaid in tax by big business every year. Meanwhile, the Stormont politicians plan to cut corporation tax, transferring £300 million directly from public services to the profits of the multinationals. Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness boasted of our low wages on their recent trip to the US, while one in five people here live in poverty.
All the evidence shows that increasing the minimum wage boosts the economy, as workers have more money in their pocket to spend in local businesses. We need a £10/hour minimum wage. But it won’t be handed to us from above my benevolent politicians. We will have to follow the example of low-paid workers in the US fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage, who are winning victories in city after city through grassroots organisation.