Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/329/5571
Young Workers Need A Liveable Minimum Wage!
PRESSURE FROM the trade union movement and the general anger among many workers could force New Labour to introduce a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds later this year.
Clare James, ISR national coordinator
The Department of Trade and Industry has reported to the Low Pay Commission that a minimum wage might be needed to protect the youngest workers from 'exploitatively low wages'. However, they say it should be set at a 'cautious' level. The commission is due to report by February so that any change can be introduced in October.
Two-thirds of the 615,000 16 and 17 year olds in work are in the wholesale and retail sectors, the motor trade, and hotels and restaurants. Many of these industries pay some of the lowest wages and have some of the worst working conditions.
One in ten are earning less than £3.10 an hour. About 40,000 were paid less than £2.90 an hour. Research published last month by the shopworkers' union USDAW suggested that some teenagers were paid as little as £1.25 an hour!
This is a disgrace; food, clothes, rent etc are no cheaper if you are young. Regardless of whether young people are in education or not - all should have the right to a living wage. The bosses have used the current minimum wage laws to legitimise low pay and super-exploitation, particularly for 16 and 17 year olds who are exempt from any minimum and 18-21 year olds who have been given a lower rate than workers over 22.
New Labour, the Tories and Liberals are all under pressure to introduce a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds. But they are also under pressure from their big business friends who don't want this introduced. So if left to the main political parties, a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds has no chance of being at a level that is enough to live on. One report suggested it may be as low as £3 an hour!
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) has been campaigning for a living minimum wage for all. We would welcome the introduction of a minimum wage for 16 and 17-year-olds, but that's not enough. A mass campaign is needed to end all existing exemptions so that all workers, regardless of age should receive a living minimum wage.
We will be campaigning alongside young workers and the trade union movement for this to happen over the coming months. If you would like more information about helping to build this campaign please contact ISR.
ISR, PO BOX 858, London, E11 1YG
tel: 020 85587947
In The Socialist 10 January 2004:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party workplace news