End The Low Pay Scandal

FOR MANY who voted for change in 1997, life under New Labour has been bitterly disappointing. Instead of fighting for ordinary working-class people, Blair, Brown and company have ingratiated themselves with big business.

Simon Donovan, Socialist Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow

They accepted sponsorship and hob-nobbed with the fat cats. New Labour has favoured its rich business friends with policies that amount to gifts. Everything is up for sale, the tube, air traffic control, health, our children’s education.

Privatisation means lower pay and worse conditions for workers and poorer services for users. Low pay is still endemic throughout the public sector.

It is a daily struggle to get by with insecurity in the workplace adding to stress levels. We work the longest hours in Europe but workers find it difficult to get by. London is impossibly expensive. We pay through the nose for travel and the cost will increase if the tube is privatised.

The £4.10 per hour minimum wage is an insult to workers throughout Britain. In London it represents a mere 38% of average wages. Take home wages are eaten up by bills from the privatised utilities, council tax charges and fuel tax. Pensions, not even linked to earnings, mean poverty for many elderly who have worked all their lives. Every way you turn it’s a rip-off.

Yet Britain is a rich country. New Labour has sat on a huge Treasury surplus while starving public services of cash. Gordon Brown paid off £36 billion in government debt to big banks in the last budget. This money could have been used to fund wage increases and improvements in services throughout the public sector.

Corporations get away with making huge profits while paying virtually no tax. Why has New Labour supported the rights of multinationals over the rights of working-class families? We need politicians who will stand up for the majority of ordinary people and not the greedy few.

The Socialist Party fights against low pay and privatisation. In Waltham Forest our members have run campaigns to organise workers on a low-pay industrial estate. Some workers were found to be earning as little as £2.20 an hour. We demand that all workers should receive a living wage. £5 is the national trade unions’ demand. In London where childcare costs are more than £22 higher than the national average of £88 and where the price of a three-bedroom flat is the highest in the world, this figure would make little difference.

The European decency thresh old of just over £7 an hour is more realistic. But this is needed everywhere, not just in London.

It is time all workers were paid a decent wage which allows us to live rather than survive.