HAVE Britain’s employers no shame at all? It would appear not since bosses’ body the CBI is whingeing again about a “cumulative burden” on business.
This burden, which includes the government’s apprenticeship levy and a repackaged minimum wage to be called the national living wage, could kill jobs and hit economic growth, according to CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn.
These were the precise charges laid by the CBI prior to Labour’s minimum wage introduction in 1999, yet they were not substantiated after the minimum wage came in.
George Osborne’s dubious effort to impress low-paid workers with a “new national living wage” will fool few people.
The Chancellor has set the new scheme at a mere 50p-an-hour increase on the existing minimum wage rate for over-25s, while the hourly rates for 21-to-24-year-olds will remain at £6.70, for 18-to-20-year-olds at £5.30 and under-18s at £3.87.
Remuneration for apprentices will be pegged at £3.30 an hour.
Osborne forecasts “national living wage” annual rises delivering £9 an hour by 2020, which the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility estimates could cause no more than 60,000 job losses by the end of this parliament.
Set against that the reality that 6 million poorly paid workers will benefit — 2.75 million directly because of the rise and 3.25 million in consequence of intra-company pay differentials.
None of these rates constitutes a king’s ransom or a comfortable existence.
Indeed, most families dependent on them will still need means-tested in-work benefits — subject to an ever-tightening cap — to subsidise skinflint employers who refuse to pay the living wage calculated by the Living Work Foundation.
This body calculates the living wage at present to be £8.25 outside Greater London and £9.40 in the capital.
Fairbairn bleats about the effect of Osborne’s apprenticeship levy, yet 98 per cent of companies will be exempt from paying it.
Fewer than 2 per cent of employers — those with an annual wage bill of over £3 million — will be subject from April 2017 to a 0.5 per cent levy on that total to offer 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
Perhaps the CBI leader could itemise all the breaks, benefits and subsidies that her members have enjoyed courtesy of the government — not least the never-ending reductions of corporation tax from 28 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent at present, with plans to cut it still further.
And still countless transnational corporations choose not to pay their share, secure in the knowledge that the Tory government is sympathetic to their greed.
The vast majority of workers have no choice other than to cough up what is demanded of them, since tax is deducted at source through Paye.
They have also been hammered by government-imposed pay freezes, backed up by bosses’ tight-fistedness, resulting, as general union GMB research shows, in the value of full-time workers’ average earnings dropping by 13.6 per cent over the past seven years.
Government policies over nearly four decades have reversed the previous trend of a greater portion of national income finding its way to the working class.
The 1 per cent richest elite now trousers a share of national income double what it was in 1980 and their wealth is greater than the total enjoyed by the poorest 50 per cent of the population.
Tory, Liberal Democrat and New Labour consensus that escalating profits and income for this tiny minority was to be welcomed has been burst asunder by a popular revolt that propelled change at Labour Party leadership level.
Redressing lop-sided balances in national income and accumulated wealth is now a priority whatever some cosseted MPs may believe.
The genie of justice and equality is out of the bottle. All efforts to force it back in must be countered by mass activity.