In other news…

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 @ 4:30PM

It wont make any headlines tomorrow and understandably so, but the national minimum wage goes up at midnight tonight and it’s worth stopping to take note in the midst of an economic climate that will undoubtedly affect the poorest people before it hits the rich.

The new rates are:

Over 21: £5.52 to £5.73
18 – 21: £4.60 to £4.77
16 & 17-year-olds: £3.40 to £3.53

As a party, Labour has always increased the value of the national minimum wage above inflation, including back in March this year when these increases were announced.

This year’s increase, at 3.8%, was significantly above inflation when it was introduced. Now inflation is sitting at just under 5%, it doesn’t feel quite as good, but can you imagine life without the National Minimum Wage?

– The kind of life the Tories voted for when the voted against its introduction. In 1996, Tens of thousands of people were earning just over £1.20 an hour.

In 2007, there were 110,000 people in Scotland earning the national minimum wage. That’s 4.3% of the Scottish working population. All of these people will benefit from this increase. But the other thing to remember about the national minimum wage is how much it has improved the working wages of women who traditional worked in low paid factory, care or domestic service work. 2/3s of NMW earners are women, that’s 660,000 women across the United Kingdom.

The hidden story about the national minimum wage is that even now, with an embedded system and all the enforcement teams, around 1.2% of all UK workers (or 290,000 people in real money) still earn less than the minimum wage. Do you think the Tories give a monkey about them?

You might think: “How’s that even possible?” Exploitation and loop holes is your answer. When I started the Give Them A Roasting, I mentioned Unite’s FairTips campaign. A campaign designed to stop hoteliers and restauranters using card tips to make up wages. That’s just one example.

Labour is committed to closing these loop holes whilst also defending and extending the national minimum wge. Don’t ever forget the Tories attitude to the national minimum wage. They said it would result in 2 million job losses. David Cameron himself warned that the National Minimum Wage “would send unemployment straight back up.” How wrong he was. If anything, the national minimum wage has actually encouraged and supported business by removing wage competition amongst companies within the United Kingdom.

- Most of the Tories that opposed the national minimum wage have seats on David Cameron’s front bench: Alan Duncan, Peter Ainsworth, Julian Brazier, Ken Clarke, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, William Hague. There’s nothing “new” about Cameron’s conservatives.

The National Minimum Wage lifts people out of poverty, promotes business and secures jobs whilst also tackling gender inequality. Yet the prospective SNP candidate for my constituency of Edinburgh East, George Kerevan, described it as “Labour Market Red Tape” in an article he wrote for the Sunday Herald. What’s next for this SNP Tory love in?

In the last week, the Tories have “stolen” the SNP’s council tax freeze policy. Well here’s a question… What’s the point in freezing council tax for the first two years of a Tory Government if you’re not committed to increasing the national minimum wage? Oh yeah - sorry i forgot, it’s a policy designed to help rich people - not poor.

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Categories: Economy, Labour, SNP, Tories

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