So the government have announced they’re looking to amend the Terms of Reference for the Low Pay Commission to force them to recommend freezing or even cutting the National Minimum Wage for the first time since it was introduced in 1999.
Its a slightly confusing message when a couple of weeks later they announce a 1.9% rise, although note how the briefing on a potential cut came directly from No.10, i.e. the Tories, while the rise was left solely to Lib Dem minister, Vince Cable.
Nonetheless the Lib Dems were silent when the government were briefing about the potential cut and would be just as culpable in any freeze or cut the government introduced. In announcing the wage rise the government also notably failed to track back on their previous briefings about a future cut, raising the prospect of freezes or cuts in the coming years, particularly if economic growth maintains the sluggish rate it has done under all of George Osborne’s reign as Chancellor.
Wage Concern – 2009 vintage
In light of this we’ve resurrected the Wage Concern campaign that we started back in 2009 when a group of backbench Tory MPs brought forward a Private Member’s Bill that proposed to allow opt_outs of the Minimum Wage, something that would have fatally undermined it.
The Tory leadership were silent on the issue at the time with David Cameron failing to show leadership by standing up to his backbenchers, not for the first (or last) time.
Thankfully we succeeded in pressuring them to drop the Bill but there were always questions over Cameron’s commitment to the Minimum Wage. When it was first introduced he campaigned against it and claimed it would cost a million jobs. As Leader of the Opposition he ‘accepted’ he got it wrong but meanwhile anonymous ‘Senior Tories’ were briefing that a Tory government wouldn’t scrap the Minimum Wage, rather, like George W Bush’s administration in the USA, they’d simply let it ‘wither on the vine’.
Wage Concern – today
Since being in power, in fairness to Cameron and the Tories, they have raised the Minimum Wage twice including this new announcement, but the briefings a couple of weeks ago on potentially cutting it have raised enough alarm bells to justify dusting off the trusty ol’ Wage Concern flag and start the campaign again.
We’ve got a new twitter account and Facebook page, so please follow both of them for the latest news on the campaign, while we’ve also raised a petition on the Number 10 e-petitions website.
The aim of the petition is to get 100,000 signatures, which in all likelihood mean it will get debated in the House of Commons, where we would hope to flush out those MPs who would happily see it abolished and simultaneously force the government to back down and reaffirm their commitment to the Minimum Wage by pledging not to freeze or cut it. We’re also calling for further measures to punish unscrupulous employers who break the law and do not pay their staff the Minimum Wage.
Recently two firms had to pay £100,000 in back pay to staff they had not paid the proper Minimum Wage levels too, but the fines for breaking the law were only £5,000 each. It should be much higher and the penalties far more severe.
You can sign the e-petition here, and please do share it around to anyone you think might be interested in helping protect the Minimum Wage from being cut by the government.
Why we need a Minimum Wage
For millions of people, the only pay rise they ever got was when the government announced a rise in the Minimum Wage, and while many right-wing politicians like William Hague, now Foreign Secretary and David Cameron, now Prime Minister, called it reckless and predicted it would cost millions of jobs the fact is there is no evidence to suggest this has happened.
Now more than ever people need the protection that a Minimum Wage provides them, giving them and those above a floor beneath which they cannot get dragged. Scrap or cut the Minimum Wage and you remove or lower that floor, not just dragging those directly above it down, but also those higher up who face an increased downward pressure on their wages.
People’s living standards are being crushed by multiple factors, many global in origin and many coming as a consequence of the Tory and Lib Dem government. Whatever the questions are on how to return economic growth to this country, the answer simply can’t be cutting the wages for the very poorest workers in the country.
The government have spent the last few weeks defending their welfare reforms by insisting that they want to make work pay, if we let them cut the Minimum Wage then it will be a huge backwards step for the very people the government claim to be on the side of.
Follow us on Twitter here, on Facebook here and sign the petition here.