Britain can afford to increase the national minimum wage (NMW) faster and quicker than the meagre 20p-an-hour hike that came into force today (Thursday 1 October).
Unite, the country’s largest union, said in its submission to the Low Pay Commission, which advises on what the rate should be, that it should rise by £1.50-an hour.
From today, workers aged 21 and over will see the NMW rise from £6.50 to £6.70-an-hour. The increase comes six months before the introduction of the ‘phoney’ national living wage for those over 25 to £7.20-an-hour.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Not only can the UK well afford to be more generous for the lowest paid, but with the relentless Tory attacks on working tax credits looming in April next year, people will need more cash in their pockets.
“This will be needed to compensate for the loss of the credits which could amount to an average of £1,000 for three million families. It will be low-waged working families who will suffer when chancellor George Osborne swings his public spending axe.
“This, in turn, will shake the economic recovery as it is the lower waged who spend in our high streets and communities. When they have a few extra quid, they buy their kids shoes or a coat, unlike the rich, they don’t salt it away in a tax haven like the Cayman Isles.”
Unite also called for a range of other measures to help the millions on low wages and in insecure employment.
These include stronger action on tips so that waiting staff get the cash for good service and it is not salami sliced in administration fees – this follows Unite’s victory over Pizza Express’s tipping policy.
The union wants the restoration of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB), particularly in England, as a safety net against the eroding incomes of farm workers and it also wants a beefed-up properly resourced inspection regime to crack down on bosses not paying the NMW, which is illegal.
Len McCluskey added: “With a growing economy and the reductions in working tax credits, the case for the NMW to go up by at least £1.50-an-hour is cast-iron.
“Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world and we can be more generous in terms of pay – and under shadow chancellor John McDonnell polices will be developed to tackle head-on the gross inequalities in pay and tax which Unite will strongly campaign for.”
Unite’s submission to the Low Pay Commission can be accessed here
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
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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.