By Joy Macready
The campaign for a £10 an hour minimum wage is gaining momentum – and it’s about time. Everyone deserves a decent wage.
Following a unanimous vote at the TUC’s congress, it is now official trade union policy. Let’s give a huge cheer for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), which tabled the motion.
BFAWU’s motion said that this would lift five million people out of poverty. Research shows that one in 20 workers earned only the minimum wage in 2013, the highest proportion ever, with a further 10 per cent earning within 50p of the same hourly rate.
The bosses’ creation of a working poor is an even bigger scandal given they have seen a huge increase in their living standards. A TUC report has found that in 2012-13, Britain’s highest paid director, Simon Peckham of investment firm Melrose, earned a year’s worth of the living wage of £7.65 an hour in less than one hour.
Today, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and even New Labour pressure group Progress support the call for £10, while measly Labour leader Ed Miliband pledges to raise the minimum wage to a paltry £8 an hour – and that by 2020, which is also the Greens’ preferred timeframe.
But we need to fight for £10 an hour now! We can’t wait for the trade union leaders – who are definitely not on the minimum wage – to launch a campaign; it is up to us to start the fight here and now.
We should take inspiration from the Ritzy workers, who won a 21 per cent pay increase over two years after 13 strikes, a consumer boycott campaign, mass and flying pickets, unionising other outlets and direct action, as when their supporters invaded the Ritzy cinema.
And they have just seen off another attack; after conceding their staff’s pay rise in the summer, Ritzy bosses tried to sack almost a third of them. Only the threat of more strike action forced a hasty retreat.
The Ritzy workers then inspired workers at Curzon Cinemas – who have now won the London living wage.
And it’s not just in the UK where people are fighting for a decent wage; the “Fight for $15” in the US is another inspirational struggle. The trade union and the labour movement in general have to focus on the millions living and working in precarious conditions if they are to stay relevant to a new generation of class fighters.
We should mobilise the rank and file in the unions in our localities, pulling in all low paid workers to build the campaign for £10 an hour. This upsurge of action has already begun; 21 October saw the successful launch of the Lambeth Living Wage campaign, putting forward ideas for unionisation, supporting the Ritzy workers and organising a tour of shame.
Everyone should be asking: what can I do in my area?