Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Living wage will be won by workers' struggle not handed down from on high

Andrew Fisher, author of The Failed Experiment ... and how to build an economy that works, gives his verdict on the Living Wage Commission's report

Over five million workers earn less than the living wage - but a report by an independent commission today says, "recovery means UK 'working poverty' can be slashed by 2020" (see full report in today's Morning Star)

The Living Wage Commission consists of both the British Chamber of Commerce and the TUC, and is chaired by Archbishop John Sentamu, who said "Working, and still living in poverty, is a national scandal".

Despite these words, the commission's final report, published today, recommends only extending the living wage to around 20% of those currently earning less than the living wage - "warning that the increased wage bill would not be affordable for some firms in some sectors, such as retail and hospitality, and for many small firms".

"Sorry, escaping poverty is not affordable" - that's the message.

The refusal of this commission to back basic dignity for workers in the retail and hospitality clearly demonstrates that a fair day's pay won't be delivered from on high by benevolent leaders, but will be won through workers' struggles.

The tax dodging brands that litter our high street pay their executives seven figure salaries, hide their profits in tax havens, and plead poverty when it comes to giving their workers dignity.

By exempting retail and hospitality workers this report is saying executive pay, profit margins and shareholder dividends cannot be cut back to benefit workers. That is why trade unions, not reports, will win the living wage

And we all pick up the bill for this corporate greed and poverty pay - through higher payments of tax credits and housing benefit. In the first two years of this government, 93% of new housing benefit claimants came from working households.

Of course, the bosses' organisations will say it's unafforable, but they said that before the national minimum wage became law too. Poverty pay is their choice, not a necessity - and unions can win it in all sectors.

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