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Workers are receiving some very contradictory messages about their wage levels and the importance of their jobs during the coronavirus crisis. On the one hand, warehouse and food distribution workers, staff in supermarkets, cleaners, those providing care, and others are being told they are key workers – they are keeping society fed, keeping it running, and protecting the most vulnerable.

On the other hand, they are being made to live off poverty wages. How undervalued and underappreciated these workers are is clearer now than ever before.

Yet, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is now suggesting that the planned increase to the national minimum wage due in April should be postponed. It has even raised that the minimum wage should be cut to save jobs!

Whether or not the government goes ahead with the planned increase, it is clear that workers’ anger is growing. They are fed up with being told they are not important enough to have decent wages even though they can see the vital role they are playing in society – especially now.

In some places this new found confidence is breaking though. We’ve heard of staff starting petitions for higher wages in unorganised workplaces and taking the first steps to improve their pay and working conditions.

The minimum wage increase should go ahead. But low-paid workers need, and deserve, much more than £8.72 an hour. The trade unions should be demanding an immediate rise to at least £12 (£15 in London) as a step toward a real living wage of £15 an hour. The age exceptions to the national living wage should also be scrapped – you don’t get a discount on your shopping and bills for being under 25, so why should you be paid less?

Angry and fed up key workers will increasingly be forced to take action and fight for the pay rises they need and deserve.

Helen Pattison, London Socialist Party