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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 August 2016

Can Britain have a pay rise?

Steve North, secretary, Salford City Unison (personal capacity)
End low pay! UberEats workers protest over their abysmal wage rates photo Scott Jones

End low pay! UberEats workers protest over their abysmal wage rates photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

I was recently part of the audience on the BBC programme 'Can Britain have a pay rise'. There were 100 of us seated in ascending order of pay. Earnings ranged from jobseeker's allowance to the 1 million salary of Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins.

What followed was a discussion about meritocracy: the myth that working hard can get you out of poverty. As somebody who represents care workers, I felt the need to state that anybody who believes this should talk to them. Even the wealthy found that hard to argue with.

We moved on to whether low pay was down to "the bosses". It was great to see a majority agree. Most of the business owners scoffed that it was them who helped people out of poverty by employing them. The answer from workers was: you need us more than we need you!

The third question was whether the Tories' National 'Living' Wage was a good thing. A business owner claimed he had to cut staff numbers because of the increase. He was rightly challenged over his own living standards. But the key point - that small businesses suffer more from the market dominance of big businesses than the rights of workers - was sadly missing.

We finally got to talk about trade unions. I was pleased to pay tribute to two young workers who had unionised their workplaces to protect their rights. Charlie Mullins - who had tried to present himself as a 'compassionate' employer - showed his true colours by attacking unions. He was met with a chorus of responses, declaring that if it weren't for unions workers wouldn't have even the paltry rights we have now.

The last section was on Brexit. Unfortunately I had to leave before this: I was already late for my second job!

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In The Socialist 31 August 2016:


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Can Britain have a pay rise?


 

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