Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/382/4313
Fight low pay
We demand a living wage for all workers, regardless of age
THE NATIONAL minimum wage, introduced in 1999 at the very low level of £3.60 an hour, has not done anything to eliminate the scandal of poverty pay.
In fact the introduction of a lower rate for 18-21 year olds has driven wages down further. Now they get 75p an hour less than the 'adult' rate of £4.10.
This presents an opportunity too tempting for some bosses to pass up. Whereas many of the big supermarkets pay the adult rate from 18, firms like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Dixons all pay lower wages to those under 21.
Shop workers' union USDAW have exposed this scandal and have produced figures to show a doubling of the number of 18-21 year-olds earning less than the adult minimum wage. Nearly 16% of young workers are in this position now and USDAW warn this could rise to over 20%.
The bosses haven't been suffering any slow-down in their pay increases though. This week, just one group - NHS chief executives - have been shown to be on over 70% more than they got a decade ago - top earners now receive £200,000 a year.
The increase was 20% higher than the rise in nurses' pay over the same period.
Incomes Data Services looked at the pay of 2,500 NHS chief executives and directors in the year up to last March. Chief executive pay averaged £107,500 in England and £116,000 in Wales. The chief executive of Hammersmith Hospitals earned more than £210,000, the report says.
The report's compilers say the figures show the widening gap between the pay of board members and employees. "As in the private sector, it seems earnings of NHS directors have outpaced the rest of the health workforce."
But as the feature in the centre pages this week shows, it is possible to get organised and fight back against low pay.
We say: End poverty pay, for a legal minimum wage of £8 an hour with no exemptions. For an annual increase in the minimum wage, linked to average earnings.
In The Socialist 26 February 2005: