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6 November 2019

Minimum wage debate: what should we be demanding?

The Socialist is running a debate. How we can end low pay and what minimum wage level should we be fighting for? In this issue, readers share their thoughts. If you've got a view, email editors@socialistparty.org.uk. You can read what's been written so far at socialistparty.org.uk


In my working life we could afford homes and holidays, now its horror without end

Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party

The articles on the gig economy in the Socialist are interesting and worthy of further comment. (See 'Film reviews: Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach').

I too enjoyed 'Sorry We Missed You'. It made me glad that I'm at the end and not the beginning of my working life.

My working life spanned a period when strong trade unions negotiated half-decent pay and working conditions and we could afford to buy houses and have holidays.

The film's message - that work for far too many people is horror without end - came over very well. It made me think that I couldn't cope with the modern world of work.

Sorry We Missed You's main weakness was that there was no mention of trade unions. The film would have had even more resonance if there was a scene where Ricky joined a union and tried to get his fellow deliverers to do likewise. Uber Eats and Deliveroo workers have already started to do this in real life.

Chris Parry's article about his life as a taxi driver raised some interesting points. (See 'Life in the gig economy' at socialistparty.org.uk).

Like many people, I have had to fork out for expensive taxi fares when I have missed my last bus and cursed how much I've had to spend. Chris explained the money doesn't go to the cabbie, but in expenses and to the company owner's profit.

Taxis are the only form of public transport that receives no public subsidy. They should be integrated into a publicly owned transport system.

In my job - a customer-relations advisor for a bus company - I often have to write letters to customers to say we won't provide the bus service they think is necessary, because it wouldn't be commercially viable.

A bus service literally for two or three people wouldn't be an efficient use of resources, in many cases. But a publicly owned taxi network could provide taxis to meet those needs.


Pay up and bring us back in-house

A Unite the Union local government rep in London

We are launching a 15-an-hour claim with Apcoa Parking in Hackney. Following previous campaigns, they already pay the London Living Wage of 10.55 an hour.

But the Living Wage Foundation is about to announce a higher rate. I know that Camden traffic enforcement get 11.48 already.

As well as increased pay, it's about restoring collective bargaining rights. Like many other contractors, Apcoa stopped pay bargaining and fell back to the London Living Wage only.

We call for parking services to be brought in-house. We couldn't legally put this to a ballot. But this is the underlying demand of the campaign.

The plan is to promote this demand among Unite the Union members and publicly pressure local-authority employers. We've had some success already. School cleaners in Hackney have won the London Living Wage and ended term-time-only pay.

The contractor, Kiers, has now decided to pull out of the contract, because it is not making money. The connection is obvious. We are demanding that Hackney Council now take the service back in-house.


The trade unions can do it

John Merrell, Leicester Socialist Party

The National Living Wage for workers aged over 25, was set at 7.20 an hour in April 2016 with a proposed increase to 9 by April 2020. Introduced by the Tories, if that transpires it will be a 25% increase over four years.

The proposal by Tory chancellor Savid Javid is 10.50 a hour by 2024. It is a worse deal, 17% over four years. Nevertheless, these increases far exceed the pay rises of many other workers under the Tories.

Alistair Tice, writing in the Socialist, pointed out: "There are now two million workers on the minimum wage compared with 700,000 when it was first introduced." This explains the anguish expressed by Band-3 health workers to Socialist Party member Jon Dale. (See 'Minimum wage debate: how can we end the scandal of low pay?').

What if the trade unions - representing the most-organised workers - achieved better pay without youth exemptions, and the reinstatement of differentials reflecting skills and expertise based on 'equal pay for work of equal value'?

That would be a benchmark for trade unions to campaign among less-well-organised workers to achieve the same. Especially where there is a relationship between two sets of workers, for example, the motor industry and its parts suppliers or local authorities and their providers of goods and services.

What should the minimum wage be? I agree with Jon Dale. "12 an hour should be the headline figure."

What should it be in London? Most if not all national pay agreements include a London uplift. In my former industry, it was the London Weighting Allowance.

If there is a consensus across national union agreements on the percentage uplift, it could inform our minimum wage amount for London workers.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29812