Posts Tagged ‘living wage’

On welfare, Cameron has a point – but we have to hold him to it

25/06/2015, 10:48:01 PM

by David Ward

Napoleon once told Le Comte de Molé the value of being both a fox and a lion, “the whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be one or the other”. For Labour on the prime minister’s speech on welfare and “opportunity” on 22 June, the tempting response will be to roar at injustice as Andy Burnham indicated he would do in the recent Newsnight debate. But there are reasons to be wary of that approach.

We saw in the last parliament how effective Tory attacks on perceived injustices on those who work to provide a living for others can be. No matter how much howling is heard from the left about Benefits Street or reductions in the benefit cap it all falls straight into Osborne’s electoral trap.

Instead we can take a far more interesting approach. To say Cameron has a point on welfare and hold him to account for it.

The prime minister suggests there is a problem with government “topping up low pay…We need to move from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society.” And of course, he’s right. It’s what Ed Miliband used to call predistribution. For some reason it didn’t catch on.


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We should have the courage to legislate for a Living Wage, not just campaign for it

18/04/2013, 05:08:34 PM

by Prem Goyal

It has become a bit of an easy game for cynical journalists to say that Labour’s leadership talks about abstract ideas like pre-distribution and responsible capitalism that are somehow too hard for people to follow. What nonsense. I don’t much like either of the phrases, but I think the ideas themselves are both simple and compelling.

Ed’s offer to the country is rooted in good old fashioned common sense: instead of taking action ‘after the fact’ to try to fix inequality, let’s build social justice into the economy at every level. It might be easy to caricature as the language of the seminar room, but it is basically just another way of saying that prevention is better than cure.

The most effective form of prevention against the most extreme forms of inequality is full employment – and the best vaccination against in-work poverty is the living wage. That’s why Ed Miliband made it such a feature of his leadership bid and did significant follow up on the details late last year.

Right-wing ideologues, of course, claim that any intervention in the market distorts it and, in the end, hurts the economy. This argument, that the market finds its own perfect equilibrium between pay, the number of jobs and the demand for goods, ignores today’s reality: low pay employers are effectively getting a public subsidy for bad practice, in the form of tax-payer top ups to their workers’ wages through the benefit system.

The IPPR and the Resolution Foundation have estimated that a universal living wage would save the Treasury £3.6 billon from the bill it currently foots to help those on poverty pay to make ends meet. Over fifteen years in business I’ve worked in New York, Tokyo, London and Zurich for some of the biggest companies in the world and I can honestly say I’ve never met a business person who would think, when looked at like that, that they could reasonably ask the public to subsidise their profit margins while their staff struggle to survive.

The truth is, the living wage works for everybody: employee, tax-payer and employer alike. Independent research for the Living Wage Foundation has found that 80% of employers giving the wage and 75% of the staff receiving it feel it improves their work. As the Tories continually fail to understand when they attack ‘lazy Britain’ and endorse erosions of employee rights, better pay and conditions improve morale and productivity. Further, plenty of living wage employers felt it strengthens their brand by encouraging consumers to see them as an ethical firm.

My own company, GMC, pays all its staff a living wage and is applying to be on the official list of Living Wage firms. Financial companies, retail outlets and legal firms are joining a long list of councils, including my own Southwark borough council, and a growing number of universities.


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Wednesday News Review

29/06/2011, 05:12:23 AM

Spoiling for a fight

David Cameron was accused yesterday of deliberately stoking up tensions ahead of tomorrow’s mass walkout by teachers and civil servants. Labour said Tory Cabinet ministers were spoiling for a fight with the unions so they could rerun the battles of the 1980s. The accusation came after ministers broke off talks on Monday and refused to enter into last-minute negotiations with union bosses. Up to 750,000 teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other public sector workers are expected to walk out in the largest day of strike action since the 1980s. It is thought that more than 3,000 schools in England and Wales will be closed and a further 2,000 partially shut, with a million pupils affected. Hundreds of job centres, tax offices and courts are set to be closed or badly disrupted by the strike over pensions. Driving tests will be cancelled and customs checks will be affected at ports. But instead of trying to resolve the dispute, Mr Cameron outraged unions with an inflammatory speech yesterday, attacking strikers and insisting his public sector pension raid would go ahead as planned. – Daily Mirror

Passengers are being warned to avoid flying tomorrow as airports are dragged into the strike disruption over public sector pension reforms. The walkout is also set to hit four out of five schools, affecting seven million children, as union members defy calls from David Cameron to call off the industrial action. The Prime Minister yesterday told public sector workers strikes were ‘wrong’ at a time when discussions were ongoing, pointing out that their retirement funds are costing every household in the country £1,000 a year and must be reformed. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are due to desert their posts at air terminals, threatening massive queues at passport control. Airport operator BAA which is responsible for Heathrow, Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, said: ‘Certainly there will be queues at immigration, there’s no doubt of that.’ A BAA spokesman said the strike would affect only arrivals, as checks for departing passengers were carried out by BAA staff, rather than the UKBA. However, passengers transferring  flights in the UK are expected to  have problems. The PCS union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka said attempts to train UKBA managers to take the place of passport-checkers would not prevent delays, adding: ‘It is likely that there will be severe disruptions and delays affecting both ports and airports. – Daily Mail

C’mon back us Ed

Tomorrow’s strikes will nail one poisonous myth: public servants do worthless jobs. Many ConDems, plus a few foolish Labour figures who should know better, demonise staff on the state payroll. Shut schools and closed courts will prove how much we depend on them. If as few employees back action as Cabinet minister Francis Maude argues, he’s got nothing to worry about. Nobody’s forced to strike and the closed shop was ­abolished years ago. But Maude’s jumpy because he fears the public could turn on the Tories if strikes spread. Ed Miliband’s terror of a Tory “Red Ed” tag triggered an ill-judged union denunciation by the Labour leader. At one point I feared Scared Ed might offer to join Michael Gove’s gimmicky Mum’s Army. Miliband should note the poll showing a majority think the pension strikes are legitimate. Appeasing Right-wingers who’ll devour him at their convenience, is a risky strategy. Because when Mili’s feckless friends turn, he might find old mates scarpered earlier. – Daily Mirror

Hypocrisy of the highest order

Campaigners say it is “unacceptable” that an MP who has campaigned for the living wage is recruiting an unpaid worker for her House of Commons office. Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, is seeking a “voluntary Westminster worker” for duties including policy research and dealing with constituents. Ms Brown said she “would like to pay everyone” in her office, but “did not have the resources to do so”. The Labour Party said staffing decisions were a matter for individual MPs. Ms Brown’s official website states: “Since her election in 2005, Lyn has campaigned tirelessly for a living wage for all.” The living wage is an hourly salary rate – higher than the minimum wage – that campaigners say is necessary to allow a family to meet their basic needs. In London – including Ms Brown’s constituency – it is currently £8.30. – BBC News

A labour MP who has campaigned against low wages was yesterday branded a hypocrite after advertising for an unpaid researcher. Lyn Brown is seeking a “voluntary Westminster worker” to help with constituency and research duties. The West Ham MP has been at the forefront of a campaign for a living wage of £8.30 an hour for workers in London. Her website states: “Lyn has campaigned tirelessly for a living wage for all.” Gus Baker, from campaign group Intern Aware, said: “This is a double hypocrisy. How would someone from a low-income background take that opportunity? It is manifestly unfair.” Ms Brown said: “I would like to pay everyone who volunteers for me and who is ultimately seeking a wage. The reality is that I do not have the resources.” – Daily Mirror

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Sunday News Review

22/08/2010, 08:04:11 AM

No defection after all

“Charles Kennedy has described claims he is considering joining the Labour party as “complete rubbish”, following reports that he was about to resign in disgust at the Liberal Democrat pact with the Tories. The former Lib Dem leader emerged from a meeting with constituents in Dingwall to declare he would not be joining Labour.” – The Scotsman

David’s pitch for the middle classes

The Labour leadership front-runner will use a campaign speech to tell activists the party still has much to do to re-establish its electoral appeal after its support “collapsed across social classes” three months ago.

“You just can’t craft an election majority out of a minority. It is dangerous to pretend we don’t need the middle classes – just as it would be to suggest Labour does not need to win back the hope and trust of working-class voters. – David Miliband, The Independent

Little brother targets core support

Ed Miliband steps up his bid for the Labour leadership today by promising substantial tax cuts for any company prepared to guarantee a “living wage” of at least £7.60 an hour. The commitment is designed to appeal to the party’s core supporters who believe New Labour took insufficient measures to combat low pay, despite having introduced a legally binding minimum wage that now stands at £5.83 an hour. – The Guardian

Lib-Lab pact?

The Liberal Democrats will discuss the prospect of “working co-operatively” with Labour before the next election, despite agreeing to form a government with the Tories, it emerged last night. The prospect of closer links with the opposition will be raised at the party’s conference in Liverpool next month.

A consultation document on Party Strategy and Priorities, which will confront Lib Dem activists with the dilemmas raised by the decision to go into government with the Tories, will declare that: “nearer the next election, the Labour leadership will start thinking about how to promote and achieve the idea of working co-operatively with the Liberal Democrats. – The Independent

Haggling for seats down under

Prime minister Julia Gillard has said that no major party had won a majority of parliamentary seats in Australia’s general election and she had started negotiating with independent MPs in an effort to cling to power. – The Press Association

Labor can expect the support of the first-ever Green member, and probably also a former Green turned independent, who seemed likely to win a seat. The Liberal party would have to rely on three other independents, two of whom have had links to the conservative National party, which is part of the opposition coalition. It may be days before the final outcome is known. – The Guardian

Playing games

“Shadow education secretary Ed Balls has called for the return of tax breaks for the games industry following the collapse of Realtime World. “The Tory-Lib Dem government is putting the future of the computer games industry in Scotland at risk,” he wrote. “The terrible news this week about Realtime Worlds could be just the start unless the coalition government rethinks its decisions, which are costing jobs and risking the recovery.” – Digital Spy

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It’s time to stir up the policy debate, says guest editor John McTernan

16/07/2010, 02:23:00 PM

Over the next ten days I’ll be Labour Uncut’s first guest editor. Many thanks to Siôn for the chance to do this. I hope that regular readers will get the same enjoyment from the site that they are used to – and that I can add something different as well. So, the usual Uncut team will be joined by a range of other voices. I’m planning to have some international reflections – the crisis of social democracy is Europe-wide – but it won’t all be pessimism, there’s an Australian General Election in the offing with Labor, under its new leader Julia Gillard set for a second term.

There’ll be voices from the grassroots, not surprisingly some will be Scots. One of the dangers of the immediate post-election is that in pausing to draw breath after the exhaustion of a campaign period we break all the good habits we have established. Now is precisely the time we should be redoubling our campaigning efforts as the excellent by-election results in Walsall and Preston show – as does the constant flow of disaffected Liberal Democrat members to Labour. But most of all, I want to provoke a lively policy debate.


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Never mind the quality, feel the width

15/06/2010, 10:36:00 PM

Over at the unionstogether blog they are doing a ‘question to the candidates’ every week of the summer.  This week’s is on the living wage, which has become rather a surprise campaign theme.  It is worth a read.

In a campaign in which no candidate is strong on content, Ed Miliband has chosen to put the living wage “as the centre of my campaign for Labour leadership”.  Not “to put it at the centre”, you will note, but “put it as the centre”.  Massive difference in that one letter.  For Ed M, the living wage is the defining issue of his leadership bid “because it sums up both the Labour party’s values and its activism”.

Although a nice piece of policy, it would ordinarily seem like a pretty flimsy thing to be the defining essence of an entire campaign to lead the major force in left-liberal politics in the United Kingdom. (more…)

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