We are now approaching the end of the first Parliament since the 1920s in which people will be worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. The recovery may have reached the City of London, but it hasn't reached the kitchen tables of working people around the country. Meanwhile, Mr Osborne wants to take us back to the 1930s.
The next Labour Government will raise the National Minimum Wage so that it gets closer to average earnings every year – rising to more than £8 before 2020. I’d like to see the Minimum Wage rise to the level of the Living Wage. After all, some 30 Labour-run Local Authorities are now paying at least the Living Wage to their staff.
However, it is not just the legal minimum that matters. Firms which can afford to pay multi-million pound salaries at the top need to explain why they will not pay the Living Wage to those at the bottom. As a start, the next Labour Government will do more to get employers to pay the Living Wage at the bottom and shed light on the pay packages given to some at the top.
Tackling low pay and encouraging the Living Wage is one of the ways the next Labour Government can ensure everyone’s hard work is rewarded and we build real and enduring prosperity – not a race to the bottom. It’s a question of the kind of society in which we wish to live: one of shrinking inequality and rising fairness – or one with rising inequality and shrinking fairness.
So a Labour government will:
- Introduce “Make Work Pay” contracts, with a tax rebate for employers who sign up to become Living Wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament;
- Ensure that central government learns the lessons from local government such that firms seeking public sector contracts are required to pay the Living Wage;
- Require companies to publish the ratio of the pay of their top earner compared with the average employee;
- Require companies to publish the pay packages of the 10 highest paid employees outside the boardroom;
- Put an employee representative on remuneration committees, to try to ensure that the views of ordinary staff are heard when decisions to award top pay packages are being made. About time, too.
What of the Conservatives? Well, it’s shocking. After spending years saying that there was no cost of living crisis, even Mr Cameron has finally agreed with Labour that Britain needs a pay rise – a huge admission of his government’s failures.
Some facts about pay following five years of the Tory-led Coalition government:
- Since the last election in 2010, average wages have fallen by £1,600 a year;
- The number of employees getting less than the Living Wage has risen from 3.4 million to 4.9 million;
- Conversely in 2014 company directors' rewards increased by 21% – talk about greedy;
- A director in a FTSE 100 company now earns on average 130 times more than their average employee – and 300 times more than the Living Wage – more avarice;
- Yet this government has cut taxes for people earning over £150,000 a year, even though salaries paid to those at the top have been soaring and ordinary workers’ wages have been falling.
If the Tories were to win the election, they would to cut taxes for millionaires even further.
Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West