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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 January 2020

Tory minimum wage hike not enough: 12 now as a step to 15!

Wandsworth Town strike protest by McDonald's workers, 12th November 2019 , photo Isai Priya

Wandsworth Town strike protest by McDonald's workers, 12th November 2019 , photo Isai Priya   (Click to enlarge)

Berkay Kartav, North London Socialist Party

Ignoring the realities of living in austerity Britain, the Tory government has announced that the National 'Living Wage' will increase by 51p to 8.72 an hour in April.

Every improvement is welcome, of course. The Eton-educated millionaire Boris Johnson said that "for too long, people haven't seen the pay rises they deserve." But for millions of workers who receive poverty wages and struggle to pay their rent and bills, is this all they actually deserve?

The fact is that while the richest in society have more than doubled their wealth, real wages for the majority have either fallen or stagnated over the last ten to 15 years. Rising living costs, cuts to in-work benefits, and insecure contracts have swept a further 500,000 workers into poverty over the last five years, reaching four million in total. There is a rising tide of in-work poverty.

A 6.2% increase, albeit above the inflation rate for one year, does not make up for the 'lost decade' (longer, in reality) of real-term wage cuts.

The 8.72 rate does not apply to under-25s or apprentices, who can receive even lower pay. And it still falls far below the 'Minimum Income Standard' proposed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which measures what the public thinks a household needs for a basic decent standard of life.

10 an hour

Even Jeremy Corbyn's pledge to raise the national minimum wage to 10 an hour without exemption - which workers would rightly have met with a sigh of relief - is no longer enough to cover rising living costs.

In this respect, the McDonald's strikers in London who called for a real living wage of 15 an hour set an example of what we should do to end low pay. But desperate to defend its fat profits, the capitalist class and its representatives in Westminster will do all they can to prevent a real living minimum of 15 an hour.

The Tories' attack on workers' rights, including the right to strike, and the court injunction on postal workers, all show that the workers' movement needs to step up the fight for decent pay and working conditions we deserve - not what the Tories think we deserve.

Coordinated trade union struggle for an immediate increase in the national minimum wage to 12 an hour with no exemptions, as a step towards a real living wage of 15 an hour, could bring this bosses' government to its knees and win big concessions on pay.

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