Rainbow Warrior - Change to a living wage
One of the main achievements of the previous government, relatively early on, was its success in pushing through the Minimum Wage.
There was huge opposition from employers who feared they would go bust but in the event it proved of benefit to all, lifting thousands of people out of the poverty trap, raising the spending power of the lowest earners and generally boosting the economy.
All the talk now though is not of the Minimum Wage but the Living Wage – the amount you have to earn in order to be pulled clear of the necessity for top ups to your income in order to survive.
It is viewed with the same horror by those who haven’t taken everything into account and the same fears of it being unaffordable are voiced.
But there is also support from a very wide political spectrum.
Boris Johnson announced the new living wage for London, with great fanfare.
Several councils across the country are becoming living wage employers and it’s important that these statutory bodies set the example for others to follow.
Politicians of all stripes like the idea of everyone paying their lowest-paid workers a bit more because it could save the government a lot of money in unpaid benefits.
(And it certainly makes a lot more sense than the impossible dream – or nightmare – of taking a third of current disabled claimants out of the welfare system altogether).
Nearly 5 million people work for less than the Living Wage.
Looking at different groups this means for instance the majority of bar staff and waiters and waitresses.
The worst sector is among sales and retail assistants where 780,000 are not paid to living wage level, the highest total of any group of employees.
Mark Constantine, co-founder of cosmetics chain Lush, said he was encouraged to pay the living wage by staff at a Christmas party.
“I basically got cornered,” he said. “Staff explained the situation to me.”
He said that the advantage was that staff did not feel they needed to take on other jobs.
“They are not exhausted, and not worried about paying their rent.”
I suppose that last comment shows the beginning of a little light at the end of the tunnel.
Once employers begin to realise that to get the best out of their workforce they need to give them a reasonable wage then all sorts of other things start to happen.
Those same employees put in a positive day’s work and they go out and spend the disposable income they have accrued and lo and behold the economy begins to pick up.
All from that initial boost in the pay packet.
Anything has to be better than the awful austerity sermon being preached across Western Europe at present. We need investment in our people – not some awful exercise in mediaeval financial blood letting.
Jonathan Toye is the co-ordinator of the WNDiS (West Norfolk Disability Service). You can contact him at 14 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn PE30 1JN by phoning 01553 782558, emailing jtwndis.org.uk or visiting www.wndis.cor.uk
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Weather for King's Lynn
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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