Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/695/13242
Jarrow marchers put forward an alternative
Minimum wage not to blame
Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs national organiser
On the day that the latest unemployment figures were announced I was asked to debate with Mark Littlewood of the Insititute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on the Tony Livesy show on BBC Radio 5Live. The IEA claims that we can reduce unemployment by getting rid of the minimum wage.
Demonstrating that 'free marketeers' like Littlewood see workers merely as commodities, he said that "like anything, if you put up the price people are less willing to buy it... if you put the price of labour up, people won't buy it".
He also claimed that many young people wrote to him asking if they could work for him at £4.50 an hour but claimed he has to write back "saying that it is illegal for him to hire people on that and leaving them on the unemployment scrap heap".
Banks bailed out
I was then bought into the debate and made the point that it is not because the minimum wage is too high that small businesses can't take people on. It is because banks that have been bailed out by the tax payer will not lend. I said that it is outrageous that working class people are being asked to take more punishment for the economic crisis while bankers still rake in huge bonuses.
Clearly flustered and failing to grasp the point I was making Littlewood resorted to comments about a "magic money fairy". I put to him that we need money to live on and that what he's actually calling for is a race to the bottom where the lowest bidder gets the job.
The interviewer then asked people to call in saying "do we lower the minimum wage to get people into work like Mark says or do we just call on people to sit around waiting for a job on £8 an hour like Paul says?"
I took issue with this saying that Youth Fight for Jobs is building a movement and calling for real solutions to this problem. We need to nationalise the banks, create a programme of public works and nationalise the biggest corporations and failing businesses to protect and provide jobs. This would enable us to provide apprenticeships and other training on decent rates of pay that guarantee a job at the end and provide jobs with decent terms and conditions.
The interviewer then claimed that I would take the country back to an era of nationalisation and socialism. I agreed that yes I was putting forward socialism. Capitalism, a system run in the interests of the super-rich has failed.
What we need is to change society so that it is run by ordinary people and in the interests of ordinary people. I also pointed out that I wasn't talking about the 'socialism' of the old eastern bloc or the nationalisation of the past but that what we need is a genuine democratic socialist solution to the crisis.
The texts from the public after the debate went 100% in favour of the arguments I was making. We demand that small businesses that claim they can't hire on a minimum wage or are sacking workers open their books to the trade union movement and local communities. If we find that their claims are true then we would fully support a government scheme to help them out financially.
What Youth Fight for Jobs will not accept though is workers being made to pay by taking away the minimum wage, one of the few safety nets they have at work.
In The Socialist 23 November 2011:
Pensions' strike, N30
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