In Seattle, socialists played a central role in the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage

£12/hour now! No age exemptions! Ban zero-hour contracts! Scrap anti-union laws!

by Chris Stewart

The Living Wage Foundation says that an hourly rate of £9.50 is the minimum required to have a basic standard of living (based on stable, full-time hours). Meanwhile, millions of workers on the so-called ‘National Living Wage’ of £8.72/hour increasingly live in poverty. For many of these workers, secure and full-time hours are simply not a reality, as precarious conditions and zero-hours contracts are ubiquitous. 

And that’s not to mention workers below the age of 25, for whom the minimum wage is even lower, falling to £8.20 for 21-24 year olds, £6.45 for 18-20 year olds, £4.55 for under 18s and £4.15 for apprentices. These workers don’t get a discount or an age differential on their rent or their bills, so why should their boss be allowed a discount on their wage? 

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the crucial role played in society by workers previously dismissed as “unskilled” in order to justify paying them the minimum wage or little more – food producers, retail and delivery staff, carers and many others.

Yet, even by the government’s own measures, they condemn millions of these workers to live in poverty by earning drastically below the ‘National Living Wage’. Reports have emerged that the Tory government may even put an “emergency brake” on minimum wage rises if the pandemic causes significant damage to the economy.

Such a callous move, aimed at protecting the profits of big corporations, would condemn many workers who are already struggling on a low minimum wage to outright poverty. 

The Socialist Party is calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to £12/hour with no age exemptions, as a step towards a real living wage of £15/hour. As well as that, we need an immediate ban on zero-hour contracts and an end to precarious conditions. 

Proposals to scrap or cut increases in the minimum wage are an indication of what is to come. The capitalist class will expect workers to pay the bill for this crisis, just as they did after the 2008 financial crash, through pay cuts and austerity. But working-class people cannot take more attacks on our conditions lying down. 

The workers’ movement must be ready to fight any reversal in the already meagre plans for minimum wage rises, and prepare to build the fightback against poverty wages and precarious conditions. We call on the trade union movement to fight for the scrapping of all anti-trade union legislation. No longer can the workers’ movement fight with our hands tied behind our backs.