Minimum wage scandal
Cash stolen from pockets of poor
"PEOPLE ARE very angry. We work non-stop, we never have time to sit down and we get paid �3.60 an hour. It's not fair." So said a McDonald's worker in south Wales at the news that the government is expected to refuse to increase the rate of the minimum wage this year. The �3.60 an hour rate is to be frozen until at least April 2001-two years after it was first introduced.
Mortgages and transport prices are rising. But the minimum wage is not even set to go up with the rate of inflation, which would see a measly 8p an hour rise. Trade union leaders reacted with fury. John Edmonds from the GMB union pointed out that "if the minimum wage is to be frozen, then thousands of low paid workers will have money stolen from their wage packets. There was a debate before the minimum wage was introduced about whether it would have an impact on jobs. Yet the introduction of the minimum wage has directly coincided with the lowest levels of unemployment for decades."
Bill Morris of the TGWU said freezing the minimum wage would mean "massive perks and bonuses for the few in the City and condemnation to poverty for the many". The head of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Bill Speirs, said of the news, "I am in no doubt that it will provoke real anger and, perhaps even more strongly, disappointment."
Forced towards benefits
"IF THE government does freeze the minimum wage it will undermine their anti-poverty strategy. It will mean the low paid having to rely on means tested benefits and being caught in the poverty trap. People originally accepted a low original figure as an introductory rate while the impact of the minimum wage was assessed. That impact has been positive, so the figure should go up."
- BHARTI PATEL of the Low Pay Unit
Bosses don't even pay the proper rate
WORKERS IN the textile industry are still fighting to be paid even the �3.60 rate. Textile workers' union KFAT has reported instances where workers are still on as little as �1.60 an hour. KFAT spokesperson David Green told Socialist Worker, "There are a minority of employers refusing to implement the minimum wage. "This means some workers are having to hold down two jobs. Others are having to work more than 50 hours a week. One of the scams the employers use is to doctor wage slips so that those working excessive hours for low pay are shown as working 18 to 20 hours. The figure comes out at �3.60 an hour."
"Textile bosses employ large numbers of workers from the Asian community and then use the fear factor to stop them complaining. People are crying out for trade union organisation in the industry. Our union members will be very disappointed that the minimum wage is not going to be uprated this year."