Minimum wage demo
Little beef from leaders
PUBLIC SECTOR union UNISON has called a national demonstration for a decent minimum wage in central Manchester next Saturday, 28 April. The demo is a chance in the run-up to the general election for people across Britain to voice their anger against the government's miserly minimum wage level.
The government recently announced it would raise the level of the minimum wage for over-21s from its current 3.70 an hour to 4 an hour. The rise is much too little, much too late. The increase does not come in until October, leaving millions struggling on the lower rate in the meantime. And the government says it will only raise the minimum wage by a further 10p in the following year, 2002.
Even that pathetic rise is dependent "on the state of the economy", according to trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers. Young people aged 18 to 21 are still getting a lower rate, currently 3.20 an hour.
Bosses have also got round the minimum wage by cutting hours, sick and holiday pay, reducing breaks, introducing charges for uniforms and tools, and in some cases replacing experienced workers with workers under 21.
UNISON branches from around Britain have booked coaches to attend the Manchester demo. But unfortunately the union's leadership has not put a fraction of the effort in it did for the magnificent 30,000-strong demonstration in Newcastle in April 1999. The union leadership was forced to call the demo by rank and file union members at last year's national UNISON conference.
But the leadership is anxious not to upset the government in the run-up to the general election. So it has advertised a pop concert in support of the minimum wage, headlined by the band Catatonia, more than it has the march through Manchester.
UNISON should be using the example of the recent successful strike by low paid workers at Team Valley Brush in Tyneside who forced their bosses to pay the minimum wage.
"We need an angry demonstration to tell New Labour we are not prepared to put up with poverty pay while the government looks after its millionaires and fat cats," says Jean Riley, a hospital worker and UNISON member.
- UNISON HAS organised a week-long series of events in Manchester as part of its campaign for a living wage. These include:
- Tuesday 24 April: Pensioners' event at the Mechanics Institute.
- Friday 27 April: Low pay symposium: "Minimum wage? Fair wage?" at Manchester Conference Centre.
- Saturday 28 April: Concert in Manchester Evening News Arena with Catatonia, Toploader and Idlewild.
DEMONSTRATE AGAINST LOW PAY Saturday 28 April Assemble 11.30am Whitworth Park
March to Albert Square for rally For details of transport and events contact your local UNISON branch or ring UNISON direct on 0800 597 9750