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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 November 2012

When is a living wage not a living wage?

James Ivens
ISS picket line at Newcastle Central Station, 10.9.12 , photo Elaine Brunskill

ISS picket line at Newcastle Central Station, 10.9.12 , photo Elaine Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

Labour backs the living wage! No more will workers have to eat own-brand cardboard! The Milibands will politely ask that bosses pay us enough to stay alive!

The living wage for 2012 was announced on Monday. The Greater London Authority sets the capital's rate at 8.55 an hour.

Loughborough University calls for the rate for the rest of Britain to be 7.45. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was upgraded in October to 6.19 for over-21s, with tiers down to 2.65 for those 'lucky' enough to be in apprenticeships.

That means a serious shortfall between the NMW and even the lowest living wage. Workers aged 16 to 18 can earn less than half of the national rate. So what would Labour do?

Washed-up Blairite David Miliband wrote jointly with Unison general secretary Dave Prentis last weekend.

The pair came behind Labour leader Ed Miliband's 'commitment' to the living wage - sort of. There will be no legislation, no compulsion to pay a fair rate. There will be no industrial action for an increase.

Instead there will be "incentives" for councils and companies, and naughty low payers could be "named and shamed".

Prentis and the Milibands, backed by Tory television personality and London mayor Boris Johnson, foresee an approaching "tipping point".

If we wag our fingers long enough a few more bosses will pay the living wage. Then the rest will magically fall in line as well. What hopeless fantasy.

Action needed

Few bosses grant even small concessions willingly. History shows again and again that the bully bourgeoisie will not share unless workers make it.

Talk of capitalists raising wages "voluntarily after seeing the economic and employment benefits" cuts no ice.

The economy benefits them quite nicely as is. Today's gap between rich and poor is as steep as the 1930s.

The Socialist Party calls for an immediate rise in the NMW to 8 an hour, as a step towards a minimum wage of 10 an hour.

Open the account books of firms that claim they cannot afford it. Then, if this is genuinely the case, or they refuse to pay it, big companies should be nationalised under democratic workers' control and small ones supported if necessary with cheap loans and subsidies to meet the gap.

Trade unions should lead the charge against poverty pay and job cuts by pushing the TUC to name the date for a general strike against austerity.

It is outrageous that the minimum wage and living wage are distinct notions. If we cannot live decently on the minimum wage, what is the point of it?

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In The Socialist 7 November 2012:


 

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