Minimum wage insult

THE ‘GENEROUS’ October increase in the adult minimum wage will be 17p an hour – effectively a pay cut for over a million low-paid workers.

Bob Severn

The change in the minimum wage from £5.35 to £5.52 an hour is only a 3% increase, despite an 11-year high of almost 5% in the Retail Price Index measure of inflation.

For 18-21 year-olds, the minimum wage will go from £4.45 to £4.60, while 16 and 17 year-olds get a massive rise of 10p to £3.40. The minimum wage change was set by trade secretary Alistair Darling, following the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission.

The bosses’ club the CBI should be happy though, after complaining that higher pay rises would “damage business”, ie dent the billionaires’ profits. Its deputy director-general, John Crindland, has the nerve to say: “With recent rises in inflation and interest rates, this is the year for restraint in the national minimum wage, just as we have seen in the public-sector pay awards.”

“Any further heavy increases would also harm many businesses struggling with high energy and pensions costs,” Crindland claimed, as if workers do not have utility bills, mortgages or loans to pay.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) calls for a £6 an hour minimum wage with no reduction for 18-21 year-olds. The Socialist Party supports this call, as a step towards a minimum wage of £8 an hour, close to two-thirds of the average wage.

However decent pay, like decent pensions, cannot be won just by politely asking New Labour. It requires organised action by trade unions.