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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 November 2013

Fight for a living wage!

Simon Carter

The cost of living is soaring but real wages for millions of workers, as opposed to the millionaires, have fallen by around 9% in the UK since the financial crash and recession began.

This driving down of wages, alongside draconian government spending cuts, is causing widespread hardship and enduring poverty.

Increasing numbers of working households have to use food banks to feed their families.

Little wonder then that it's dawned on Ed Miliband that raising the poverty pay levels of the minimum wage (£6.31 an hour) may be a vote winner. Around 4.5 million workers are paid less than £7 an hour.

The Labour leader has proposed a "make work pay" deal if Labour wins the next general election. This would raise the minimum wage to the "living wage", an informal benchmark figure, currently set at £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour in the rest of the country.

Predictably Tory ministers have dismissed this demand accusing Labour of "calling for yet more borrowing and more debt".

They also pointed out that Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, had previously criticised Miliband's policy during the 2010 Labour leadership contest, saying it would require "a substantial extra cost either to the Exchequer or to business".

Business leaders have been more cautious in their comments, not least because under Ed's proposals private firms would be able to claim back about a third of the cost of raising their workers' wages to the living wage, worth up to £1,000.

Moreover, such a scheme would be voluntary, requiring companies to sign up to it. In other words, Labour's pledge amounts to yet more public bailouts to profitable companies.

Even the living wage will only scratch the surface of in-work poverty - not least because of cuts in working hours, a rise in part-time jobs instead of full time work, and zero-hour contracts (see

Establishment politicians will at best only tinker with capitalism and do little to redistribute company profits to workers' earnings.

Workers must use their collective strength through trade union organisation to fight to compel the bosses into paying a real living wage.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates in next year's local elections, who include Socialist Party members, are pledged to fight for councils to adopt measures to introduce a living wage of £10 an hour and hold those that have already signed up to their word.

"Boris Johnson's increase of 25p on the London Living Wage (LLW) to £8.55 an hour is an insult to hard working Londoners.

"The fact that politicians in London think that this will be enough to live on shows how completely out of touch they are with working class people.

The LLW can be opted-in and out of by employers as they see fit; a paltry 200 employers have signed up to the living wage since it was introduced in 2005. This means that only 11,500 workers actually benefit from it."

Nancy Taaffe, Socialist Party member and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition prospective candidate (

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In The Socialist 6 November 2013:

Socialism 2013

Socialism 2013 - reflecting a thirst for ideas

Socialist Party news and analysis

Nationalise the energy companies

End the witch hunt of Stevie Deans and Unite

Fight for a living wage!

A joyless economic recovery?

Them and Us

Socialist Party interview

This is no UTOPIA

Socialist Party workplace news

Joint strike by university staff

FBU strike: Determination to force government back

Postal strike called off for now

Warrington bus workers striking against pay freeze

Bosses find new ways of turning the screw

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Trade union action needed to protect London NHS

Build a mass movement to defeat workfare and all cuts

Nuneaton: 18-year old student stands for TUSC

Waltham Forest's 'join' week of action success

Huddersfield students say: Save our bar and café!

Reviews and readers' comments

No Fire Zone reveals truth of war crimes against Tamils

Book review: Marxism in Today's World

Answering Tory lies about teachers


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