The employers’ pay offer to workers in local government amounts to miniscule rises of between 6p and 9p per hour. This added to the three-year wage freeze has also seen wages reduced by 17 per cent in practice. A 1 per cent increase for health workers equates to the same. The proposed increases in the national minimum wage – 12p an hour for adults (bringing it up to £6.31p), 5p an hour for 18- to 20-year-olds (up to £5.03p), 4p an hour for 16- to 17-year-olds (up to £3.72p) – reveal a deliberate intention to make the national minimum wage wither on the vine.
The proposal by the privatised Islington Home Care company to buy workers out of their existing local government terms and conditions and offer them the national minimum wage plus 1p is even more cynical, brutal wage cutting. The proposal comes after Islington Borough Council had made great fanfare about having the London living wage, £8.55p, as the minimum rate that should be paid for outsourced services.
The government wants the national minimum wage, the weakest safety net, to be reduced to no safety net. Those campaigners for the Living Wage, applying to fewer than 10,000 mainly public sector workers in London and promoted by trade unions wanting to avoid the real battle for wages, have set another safety net. This safety net is based upon charity from a very limited number of employers, usually to avoid bad publicity and encourage the wrong thinking in trade unions – that legislation will save us from having to fight for wages.
Britain is seen as a low wage economy with over 60 per cent of those in work having to claim benefit in some form or other. Workers has described pay and the fight for wages as the elephant in the room. Apparently a very subdued elephant. ■