By Ian Hodson, President, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
How worried should we be by the government announcing an increase in the minimum wage by the princely, recession-busting sum of 20p? Lib-Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable claimed that it would be too dangerous to go any higher and would risk creating unemployment yet in January, when the government’s propaganda machine set about creating a false ‘feel-good factor’ for us all, their sycophants in the press rolled out the mantra that the economy was now fixed and we were all better off.
Indeed, on Thursday, Jan 16th, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced that the growth in the economy meant Britain could now afford a substantial increase in the minimum wage. In a bid to outflank Ed Miliband, the Tory dominated media had already reported that Osborne had thrown his weight behind a proposal that would raise the minimum wage from £6.31 to £7 an hour from October 2015; seven months before the general election. The move, which followed a lengthy debate in Conservative circles led by Osborne stooges Matt Hancock and Jo Johnson finally manifested itself in the government's submission to the Low Pay Commission.
So does today's March 17th decision signal the weakness of the British economy or the flakiness and spin at the heart of the Tory party? Clearly, the so-called green shoots of the ‘recovery’ are difficult to find for most people, with only those at the top benefiting as per usual; the richest by as much as 64%. In short, the Tories have managed to deliver for their donors tenfold, whilst handing out austerity for everybody else, underpinned by a culture of hate, division, fear and uncertainty.
We now know that the Tories have even more spending cuts planned, which will involve ripping out another £70 billion out of the public sector. This will mean cuts to schools and the eventual privatisation of our NHS, as it simply won’t be able to survive with the level of cuts that they intend to put in place. It’s a clear strategy, designed to push us towards an American-style, insurance based system. For proof, you only need to look at the list of Conservative MPs with links to private health companies and the number of NHS contracts being issued to them.
The Tories have prioritised tax cuts for the richest, whilst trying to convince the rest of us that this will lead to a steady, bounteous, downward trickle of the riches, wine and roses. However, anyone with any sense knows that whilst the wealthiest in society will continue to fire the champagne corks at the sun and clink their flutes, those at the bottom end of the pay-scale will be lucky to get a few drops of the spit-back.
Soon, the rich and powerful will be guarding their homes with state of the art, modern private security, whilst ordinary people will be forced to live in fear as police numbers are cut to their lowest ever levels as a consequence of the Tory agenda. It’s all the more ironic when you consider the relationship between Thatcher’s government and its vindictive, paranoid, payslip waving thugs-in-blue during the 1980s.
The question is why the government could afford a minimum wage of £7 an hour only two months ago, but can only stretch to a 20p increase now? David Cameron even had the gall to prance around the country in true Frances O’ Grady style, proclaiming that ‘Britain needed a pay rise’. I wonder how his chums in the city would react to a 20p increase? The crux of the matter is that the whole thing is pure spin of the most patronising and condescending fashion; probably written by Michael Green (or is that Sebastian Fox?) before he reverted back to the name to Grant Shapps.
Despite all this negativity, there is a ray of sunshine. On April 15th, low paid workers in the fast-food industry will be taking action across the world, demanding an end to poverty pay and the right to Trade Union recognition.
It’s a movement of collectivism and common belief that has been steadily growing over the last twelve months or so, and that has already brought about some significant change and a major call for fair play and fair pay that is beginning to make the mainstream in this country. We believe that if MPs really want to represent their constituents properly, they should be screaming out demands for an increase in the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour. At the end of the day, they want our vote; let them earn it.
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