Government plans to penalise businesses which fail to pay the national living wage drew a sceptical response from Britain’s largest union, Unite today (Tuesday 1 September), who warned it would take some ‘leap of faith’ to believe the Tories were converted to the cause.
Commenting on the promise of additional resources to enforce the law and tackle non-payment, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Of course additional resources for enforcement of the law are to be very welcomed. But they will need to be significant to be of any value - we have long been concerned that cuts to these services have rendered them nigh-on useless to workers.
"Given the record of the Tory party on worker protection it will take some leap of faith to believe that they are now converted to the cause. This is the very party that weakened the powers of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority, scrapped the essential body protecting the wages of low paid farm workers and is planning to go into EU treaty negotiations looking to take the UK out of vital protections for workers.”
Highlighting employment minister Nick Boles’ admission that only a handful of firms had been prosecuted for failing to pay the minimum wage on this morning’s Today programme, he added:
“Ministers themselves admit workers rarely secure the full return of the wages swindled out of them by an employer, and under this government exploited workers have been priced out of pursuing justice through industrial tribunal.
"Regardless of the merits of rigorous enforcement of the law, there is no substitute for strong unions at work. They are the single best weapon against exploitation happening in the first place, and ensure workers are safer and better paid in the long run.
"The sooner the government gets its head around the fact that workers need their unions, the better - how else would the scandal of tips being taken from waiting staff by their employers have hit the headlines? Who is it that is fighting against abuse at Sports Direct?
"Trade unions are the frontline response to workplace injustice. The truth is, when the government brings forward its bill to bring ruin to unions they will give rogue employers the upper hand.
“Instead of making it a mission to destroy unions, the government would be better occupied talking to us on solutions to the problems of Britain's workplaces.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.