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Minimum wage erosion – a family affair

When the minimum wage was introduced it was hailed as a great step forward for working people everywhere. It was.
However, it was too low and had age bands built in, all to placate the business community and make it affordable. So those of us, on the left, were disgruntled from the off. Happy that the minimum wage was there unhappy that it was so low.
Fast forward a few years and the minimum wage has grown a bit, not enough, and only a little ahead of rising costs. We find that being in a minimum wage job needs to be topped up with benefits to a large degree to make it possible to live on. A government subsidy if you will to those firms making use of cheap labour.
Enter stage left ‘A living wage’ designed to up the ante and get employers to lift wage levels off the floor. Widely adopted? not bloody likely. adopted by Government departments (some did) after all it is public money so just another form of benefit / subsidy.
Minimum wage legislation is the right way forward, but the rate needs to be set at which people can afford to live on it, otherwise it is a failure before it starts.
The threat from business (which made Tony run for the hills) was that higher rate would mean less jobs. As if businesses could just make do with less staff, in the short term they can but if the work is there then the need for labour exists also. Capitalism is about those with the capital reaping the rewards of it, well maybe we should point out that if workers cannot live on the wages you offer they wont work for you, demand will be weak for your product,  and this will slow your business.
Anyway, I digress, I wanted t relate a tale that got me very angry indeed. It involves my 20 year old Daughter who is looking for a job.  She has just finished a degree in Interactive media  but is generally looking for anything.  Along comes a job interview for a marketing post (all good so far) then a second interview (lasting all day involving work trial).

Like most parents, I expect, I am at the end of the information chain.  ‘All day?’ I query my wife who, knowing me well, gives me the look.  I am now somewhat irked that I am off the pace on this.  Add to this that the job is in Edinburgh (20 miles away) and she doesn’t drive, my level of dubiousness is growing.  Fast forward to a happy daughter arriving (after 11pm) to tell me she has a job!!

I ask all about her day and find the following (spanish inquisition has nowt on me), that there is no basic pay (commission only), it is 6 days a week from 10 am to 8.30pm, it involves walking around door to door selling.  The no basic pay was only made clear after a day long ‘trial’.  Needless to say the conversation went downhill from there.  I had the unhappy duty of bursting her balloon and explaining exploitation.

Having, myself, worked for £1.60/hour as a security guard (72hr wk) during John Major’s time I am an ardent supporter of the need for a minimum wage.

How these companies can get away with not paying the minimum wage is beyond me.  It is law and therefore needs to be applied.  No ifs no buts.  I will be reporting the company when I work out exactly where to report it to.

I know that there is a provision for commission only (as long as the equivalent period meets min wage condition) but this is being flouted and I expect it only to get worse.  Young people are preyed upon by these companies and it has to stop.  Yes, times are hard but this exploitation is not the answer.  I don’t expect action by Dave and the gang on this front.  In fact the opposite is true as this amendment to Minimum wage act shows.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2010-2011/0029/cbill_2010-20110029_en_2.htm

This will allow the Secretary of state to allow exemptions from minimum wage requirements as necessary.

Minimum wage and Working Time Directives are there to prevent callous abuse of workers from unscrupulous business owners.  We should oppose any watering down of the minimum wage and push for a much better deal.

Remember that at 16 you can be married, have children, and run a home.  So why does the minimum wage discriminate on grounds of age.  Young people are badly discriminated against on many fronts this is just another.

Minimum wage was a hard-fought win in the UK and we had better gird our loins and fight to avoid its erosion and disappearance.

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