Let’s have a decent minimum wage!

"FOR TOO long, poverty pay capped the aspirations and prosperity of far
too many hard- working families."

 These were Tony Blair’s hypocritical words as he launched his
election promise to raise the minimum wage from £4.85 an hour to £5.05 and (in
October 2006) to £5.35.

Rob Macdonald, Lambeth Socialist Party

Although the socialist supports any improvements in working people’s wages,
these promises are simply eye-catching headlines designed to win workers’

Since Blair came to power, the wealth gap has kept on rising. Each
individual in Britain’s wealthiest 1% is on average £737,000 better off than
they were under Thatcher, while the poorest 50%’s share of society’s wealth
has been slashed. This shows New Labour’s real agenda.

The minimum wage increases go nowhere near meeting the needs of
Britain’s poorest-paid workers.

Blair says this rise would benefit "about 1.4 million people." But the most
it could benefit a worker on the minimum wage could be an increase of £8 per
week based on a 40-hour week. This in no way matches the cost of living.

Many workers wouldn’t even see this money, including around 272,000 people
who were known to be eligible for the minimum wage but not receiving it. Also,
the law still discriminates against young people who are excluded from the
higher levels of the minimum wage.

The Socialist Party fights for a minimum wage of £8 per hour for all.

If you took just one of many companies making super-profits like the Royal
Bank of Scotland (see article below) and redistributed the money amongst the
1.4 million workers that Blair refers to, that would pay an increase of £2.40
per hour based on 40 hours per week. On top of Blair’s increase that would
come to almost £7.75 per hour. That would be a real step forward.

Blair would not dream of doing such things to his big business friends. But
maybe workers could take some advice from Richard Desmond, the owner of The
Express newspapers’ publishers Northern and Shell.

The firm made a £3.2 million loss due to him taking £51.4 million for his
personal pension pot. He answered his critics by saying "it’s never wrong to
take the cash if it’s there."

The money is certainly available in society, but it’s by only working
people getting organised and fighting for a socialist society, that we will be
able to meet our needs and redistribute the wealth of society in a planned and
democratic way.

Bosses laugh all the way to the bank

HAPPY DAYS for shareholders and board members of Britain’s big banks, who
are expected to announce record profits totalling £30 billion. That’s £82
million a day, £3.4 million an hour or nearly £1,000 each second.

The giant HSBC bank announced a 37% rise in pre-tax profit to £9.6 billion
for 2004. At £304 per second, that’s the biggest annual profit recorded by a
UK-based bank and maybe the biggest by any British company.

Yet if HSBC get their way, up to 2,500 of the 25,000 staff covered by the
Amicus trade union bargaining arrangements would "get no pay rise this year
and 40% will get below inflation". Quite rightly, the union says it will hold
a strike ballot among HSBC workers.

These workers’ labour power created the profits which, as Amicus said,
"will mean yet another bonanza for shareholders and the boardroom but not for
the staff."

HSBC chairman Sir John Bond puts HSBC’s global super-profits down to
"remarkable progress" in China. His pay made "remarkable progress" too. £1.1
million salary and £2.4 million in bonuses took his total pay into the

HSBC’s accounts show its (unidentified) highest paid employee got up to
£13.6 million last year. Top director William Aldinger, Britain’s highest-paid
executive, will get £2.3 million when he leaves in April bringing his total
pay to £30 million for less than three years’ work.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), also announced record profits of £8.1 billion
– £257 per second. 19,000 RSB workers (and bosses) in Scotland will get a 10%
bonus averaging £2,100 but Sir Fred Goodwin, the bank’s chief executive, will
also get a performance bonus estimated at £1.5 million.

It’s time these fat-cat financial institutions were taken into public

Employers object to £5.35

THE FINANCIAL Times says big business leaders, who previously wanted no
increase in the minimum wage this year, had "breathed a sigh of relief" that
this autumn’s increases would be 4.1%, "slightly below official predictions
for average earnings growth".

However, CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones said: "A rise to £5.35 in
October 2006 will be difficult for some companies to accommodate." The
government, though, has seemingly already agreed that next year’s rise should
be reviewed by the Low Pay Commission "in the light of prevailing conditions
closer to the date of the increase".

So a £5.35 an hour minimum wage could still be doubtful if the employers
keep moaning and if the unions don’t defend the low paid.

£23 billion-worth of work without pay

NOT ONLY do Britain’s employers and government want us to work for longer
years for smaller pensions. They also want us to work more hours a week – and
they’d rather we toiled unpaid too!

Employees in Britain work the longest hours in western Europe but a TUC
survey shows that millions of workers do £23 billion worth of unpaid overtime
a year. They regularly put in extra hours – averaging about two months a year
– without getting paid a penny for it.

The worker pressed into unpaid overtime would receive an extra £4,650 if he
or she got paid at the proper rate. The total shortfall adds up to £23

Teachers and lecturers get the worst deal, doing on average 11 hours and 36
minutes unpaid overtime a week – and that could be a huge under-estimate.
Lecturers’ union NATFHE calculates that their members are underpaid by £215 a
week for their overtime.