David Cameron claims that he wants a high wage, low tax economy. If that’s the case, he has a funny way of showing it. Over the last five years, he has overseen exploitation and a devaluing of labour on an industrial scale, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Victorian times. Don’t just take my word for it; look at the jobs websites for proof. Zero hours contracts, workfare, part-time roles, temporary contracts and apprenticeships offering full-time responsibilities and duties for as little as £2.60 per hour. These working arrangements used to be the exceptions; now they are the norm and this brazen, shameless race to the bottom ideology has spread throughout the labour market like a cancer. If this wasn’t enough, Cameron’s government wants to further punish those on poverty wages by cutting the benefits that they have to claim as a result of the poor pay they receive, all hammered home by the sneering Work and Pensions sociopath, Iain Duncan Smith; a man who has already contributed to a number of people being driven to commit suicide.
The BFAWU believes that workers shouldn't have to rely on benefits. They should be able to plan their lives without constant form filling, in order to prove that they are living in poverty. Cameron could make good on his constant spin by announcing the move from a minimum wage, to a living wage of at least £10 per hour. This would remove the need for people to claim in-work benefits, give the economy a good shot in the arm and show him making good on his up to now laughable claims that the Conservatives are ‘the party of working people’. The reality is that you’re more likely to find a swan and unicorn pasty in your local Greggs shop than see the attitude of Cameron’s government be anything other than sly and vindictive when it comes to people on low incomes.
David Cameron favours the idea of a regional minimum wage. This basically means lower, or higher wages for doing the same work, depending on where you live; a kind of postcode lottery for pay if you like. We need to be extremely cautious over the Scottish National Party’s demand for devolving powers surrounding the minimum wage. This move would bring about an end to the national minimum wage. The break up of a UK wide national minimum wage could see England and Wales which, as we know has an in-built Tory majority, scuppering any attempt to increase it, driving wages down not up with Scottish MPs barred from taking part in debates or votes which don’t affect Scotland. The SNP could actually find themselves enabling David Cameron's nightmarish vision of lower pay in some regions, particularly northern (probably Labour-run) constituencies and in the SouthWest where some health trusts tried to break away from national pay bargaining during the last 5 years. Regional pay would weaken the BFAWU’s ‘Hungry For Justice’ campaign, which is calling for no worker in the UK to be paid less than £10 an hour.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)