Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Future That Works: Ending the Low Pay culture

On Saturday the 3rd of Nov, two of the Committee members attended an excellent conference on low pay that was hosted by Southern and East Region TUC (SERTUC)
There were a range of excellent presentations from:
·       Duncan Weldon of the TUC
·       Enrico Tortolano from the PCS union
·       Heather Wakefield from Unison
·       Helen Kersley from the New Economics Foundation (NEF)
·       And Andrew Murray from Unite
A clear consensus seemed to emerge that might be summarised as:
Pay Inequality in the workplace has been increasing at an exponential rate, this means that the pay gap between people at the top of companies and those at the bottom is getting bigger and bigger.      
This was borne out this week as research found that: Senior executives in the UK's biggest companies have seen their average earnings go up by more than a quarter in the past year (Share incentive schemes boost top executives' earnings)
In fact ‘real wages’ and the ‘wage-share’ have been falling consistently for many years. 
Not only is this unjust and unfair, but is actually detrimental to the economy as a whole as well, this is because as the cost-of-living is rising and pay (at lower and middle levels) does not rise to match, means workers’ disposable income decreases or disappears thus sucking demand out of the economy – particularly local economies.
Thus less spending, means a knock-on effect on businesses who then decrease staff levels to match, all resulting in a down-ward spiral.     
Some solutions to the problem were:
·       A Living Wage for all
·       A wage cap or maximum wage
·       Increased trade union membership and collective bargaining
·       Full employment
Certainly low pay is a problem for many in Hackney and should be a concern to all irrelevant of income levels for the reasons given above and spelt out brilliantly in the book: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
Concerns about inequality and calls for a Living Wage are certainly gathering momentum as is criticism of the government’s mad-cap experiment called ‘Austerity’, it therefore seems a good time for campaigners, community activists, trade unionists etc to get behind  these issues and increase the pressure on the government and the neo-liberal economic model as a whole! 
For more information on some of these issues please see the TUC’s Touchstone blog
And if you are interested in finding out more about joining a trade union or Unite’s Community Membership initiative.....

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