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WORKERS in our country have endured decades of stagnating wages.
Since Thatcher’s attacks on trade unions in the 1980s, more money has been going to shareholders in the form of profits and less has been going to workers in the form of wages. Successive governments have kept Thatcher’s labour market reforms intact.
The Conservatives’ policy of austerity and wage restraint in the 2010s caused the longest pay squeeze since the time of the Napoleonic wars. It took 13 years for workers’ wages to return to the levels they were before the global financial crisis of 2008.
During the same period the wealth of the 1,000 richest people in our country increased by £538 billion. The system is rigged against working people in the interests of a small elite.
Now the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our weak economy in limbo. The future for workers looks uncertain.
Across the country there are companies attempting to use the pandemic as cover to “fire and rehire” workers on worse pay, terms and conditions.
The Conservative government is not lifting a finger to stop them. In fact, fire and rehire is only possible because of the “flexible” labour market laws they’ve created.
This week the Tories will vote against Barry Gardiner’s private member’s Bill that would ban this abhorrent practice.
There are 14.5 million people living in poverty in our country. The vast majority live in a household where someone has a job.
In the year to March 2020, 17.4 per cent of working households were living in poverty. That is 4.4 per cent higher than in 1996. Work is no longer a route out of poverty.
This is shameful. There is more wealth in our country than ever before. But it counts for nothing if the benefits of that wealth are not shared by all.
We stand at a crossroads. We cannot let this be another decade where the millionaires and billionaires steal an even bigger slice of the pie at the workers’ expense.
It’s time to shift the balance of wealth and power from the few to the many. This means more money going into the pockets of workers and less money going into the bank accounts of shareholders.
The idea that a Conservative government could deliver on this is for the birds. Their record speaks for itself. They are a party of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.
But the fact they’ve added “higher wages” to their latest list of soundbites demonstrates the strength of feeling across our country. Workers demand a pay rise.
The Labour leadership must not allow itself to be outflanked by the Tories. Luckily the labour movement is ahead of the game.
In September, Labour Party conference delegates voted to commit the party to supporting a £15-an-hour minimum wage. Both the Unison and GMB unions are calling for £15 an hour for carers. This is the least that workers deserve.
This policy would transform the lives of workers across our country. It would lift huge numbers of people out of in-work poverty.
It would put more money in people’s pockets creating the conditions for small businesses to thrive. And it would begin to reset the balance between workers and business after decades of workers receiving less and less of the fruits of their labour.
I stand by Labour Party policy and will be campaigning for £15 an hour for all workers. Disappointingly, it is unclear if Keir Starmer will do the same.
So far he has only gone so far as to call for £10 an hour. There is a serious risk that the Conservatives will go further than this in the coming weeks and months, outflanking Labour. We cannot allow that to happen.
I have tabled an early day motion in Parliament in support of a £15-an-hour minimum wage and am calling on Labour MPs to show their support by signing it.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate to working people that Labour is on their side. In the process we can unite our movement.
Jon Trickett is Labour MP for Hemsworth.
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