APPROXIMATELY 2 million low paid workers will be covered by the increase in the national minimum wage that came into effect yesterday.
Under this increase workers aged over 23 will see an increase from £8.72 an hour to £8.91 – an increase of 19p an hour representing an increase of 2.2%.
The hourly rate for workers aged 18 on the minimum wage will rise by 11p an hour to £6.56, which is a 1.7% increase. The earnings of low paid workers aged 21-22 will rise to £8.36 an hour.
Despite the Tories trumpeting that this move will benefit low paid workers, especially in sectors like retail, hospitality and cleaning and maintenance, the reality is that any gains were immediately wiped out.
On the same day as this derisory increase came into effect, households were hit with massive increases in bills. Low paid workers living in rented accommodation across England were hit by council tax increases that average 4.3%.
On April 1st over half of households in England face increases in gas and electricity prices expected to average over 9%. The TV licence fee will also be increased by £1.50 to £159 while at the same time NHS prescription charges will increase by 20p to £9.35 an increase of 2.2%.
At a stroke, the very lowest paid workers and youth will see any increase more than wiped out while the millions of workers struggling on in low pay just above the minimum wage will be forced further into poverty.
On Wednesday, the TUC published an analysis in support of its call for the Tories to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour. This analysis showed that 3.2 million key workers, about one in three, earn less than £10 an hour.
Key workers include:
Retail workers: Three-quarters (75%) of retail workers are paid less than £10 an hour. That’s around 1 million retail assistants, cashiers and shelf-fillers.
Carers: More than three in five (62%, 440,000) carers earn under £10 an hour.
Teaching assistants: Nearly seven in 10 (69%, 340,000) teaching and education support assistants are paid less than £10 an hour.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady commenting on the increase in the minimum wage said: ‘Those expecting a decent pay increase today have been let down by the government’s decision to row back on the full rise they were promised.
‘TUC analysis shows that one in three key workers earn less than £10 an hour. This can make it tough for them to pay bills and put food on the table.’
She added: ‘Ministers must get the minimum wage up to £10 an hour to stop millions of working people from living in poverty.’
It is not just the Tories that have rowed back on their promises over increasing the minimum wage, however. Back in 2015, the TUC annual conference voted unanimously for a fight to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour.
For six years the union leadership have done absolutely nothing to fight for this demand. Indeed, it has not even been increased despite the fact that wages have been driven down in real terms through wage freezes and wage-cutting. In the last year, the number of people in the UK living in poverty has risen to over 15 million.
Along with this derisory increase, the Tories are determined to inflict a pay freeze on public sector workers and an insulting 1% increase to nurses.
The nurses’ union (RCN) is preparing for strike action for the demand of a 15% increase. They must have the full support of the TUC and every union in the fight for the right of every worker to a real living wage.
The working class must force the TUC leaders to either fight or be removed and replaced by a new leadership prepared to call a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and a planned socialist economy.
Only by expropriating the bankers and bosses under socialism can every worker and their family be guaranteed a future without poverty.