I guess that’s why we call people like Frances O’Grady ‘progressives’ – it certainly isn’t their results!
Employers told us it would cost two million jobs; rightwing politicians saw it as interference in the market; and even some trade unions thought the state should keep out of wage regulation. Not so long ago, the minimum wage was a minority cause.
Fifteen years on from its introduction, politicians now compete for who can back the biggest above-inflation rise; many companies want to pay the living wage – and this is how unions like it. You know you’ve won an argument when everyone has forgotten why they disagreed with you in the first place.
Plenty of people haven’t forgotten, Frances. I certainly haven’t. And I still do disagree.
Today’s spread of low pay, zero-hours contracts, agency work and other forms of casual working are reminiscent of the conditions that led to support for the Fair Wages Resolution and wages councils more than a century ago. The real challenge to supporters of the modern minimum wage is whether they see it merely as a way of legitimising the divided labour market – making the decline in secure jobs with prospects and decent pay acceptable because at least everyone gets the minimum wage.
Did anyone ever think it would stop with the Minimum Wage? Anyone? Bueller?
And it’s not just an increase in pay, either – now they are looking at other areas:
With even the International Monetary Fund arguing that inequality helped drive both the crash and the slow recovery, we need a bold increase in our wages floor and some sectors need new wages councils. These would get employers and unions together to set not just minimum pay, but also decent standards for such things as training and sick pay.
They never, ever stop. Because their very jobs depend on there always being another war to be waged, another battle to be fought:
We want rising living standards to become a central objective of public policy after years in which measures that reduced wages were seen as the responsible thing to do. We want policies that reduce inequality and to reverse the trend that has seen top directors’ pay go up every year, despite cuts in real pay for everyone else. Putting workers on remuneration committees will be a start, but we must cut the knot that leads every organisation to defend paying directors top whack just because everyone else does.
Remind me, Frances – what do top union officials and charity directors and quango heads get paid?