Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/344/5733
Wanted: A Living Wage For Young Workers
THE SUNDAY Times Rich List tried to make us drool last weekend over the colossal fortunes amassed by Britain's wealthiest people, like Roman Abramovich, the multi-billionaire who bought Chelsea football club with spare change out of his £7.5 billion fortune.
Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, ISR London
Abramovitch is now the richest person in Britain. He started amassing his riches by buying into a Siberian oil company created from previous state assets. Through mergers, it became the world's fourth biggest oil firm and brought him billions.
Britain's richest 1,000 people are now 'worth' £202 billion - more than 30% wealthier than last year. If there was an annual Low Pay List, how many workers would have had 30% pay rises in the past 12 months?
Take young workers of 16 and 17 years old, who are permanently at the foot of the pay league. Half of all 16-17 year olds are in work today, three-quarters keeping down jobs on top of full-time education. Under-18s are not at present eligible for a national minimum wage, so many employers only pay them poverty wages.
Now years of campaigning have forced the government to bring in a minimum wage for 16-17 year-olds from next October. Unfortunately New Labour have set the rate at a stingy £3 an hour.
Last year Greater Manchester Low Pay Unit (GMLPU) said that "the minimum wage has had a positive impact, particularly on low-paying sectors. However, many of the jobs still offered a low weekly income and would only provide a decent living income for a family if it was topped up with benefits and tax credits."
That's even more true for young workers. A GMLPU survey a few years ago showed that over a quarter of all jobs for 16-year-olds, over a fifth of those for 17-year-olds and a tenth of all 18-year-olds' jobs were paying less than £1.75 an hour.
Although £3 an hour is a small step forward, it still keeps young workers in the poverty pay league. The Rich List shows that there's no shortage of money.
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) aims to build support for our campaign by getting 5,000 signatures to hand into the government with copies to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to put pressure on them to campaign for the introduction of a living wage for all workers.
In The Socialist 24 April 2004:
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