Article from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

No to poverty pay!

6 Now and no more exemptions!

By Daniel Waldron, Belfast Socialist Youth
FROM 1 October 2005, the minimum wage will increase to 5.05 for workers aged 22 and over and to 4.25 for workers aged 18-21. While Socialist Youth supports these increases, they still allow employers to get away with what is essentially poverty pay. However, workers aged 16 and 17 are not going to receive any increase and will still be entitled to a paltry minimum wage of just 3!

Bosses' organisations have attacked the increases in the minimum wage. This is despite the fact that, as a share of the economy, profits are at their highest for 25 years while wages are at their lowest. Shell, the oil multinational, announced profits of $18.5 billion! The average salary of a chief executive from one of the top 200 companies in the UK is almost 1.5 million per year.

The government and employers try to justify this by saying that young workers are less productive than their older counterparts. However, independent studies have shown that this is simply not the case. Young workers are being super-exploited as a source of cheap labour. A 17 year-old fulltime worker could expect to take home as little as 120/week before tax! This simply isn't enough to provide a decent living in today's world. But what can young workers do about it?

The answer is to fight back the only way we can, through hitting the employer were it hurts; their profits! Socialist Youth is re-launching its End Low Pay Campaign.

We will be naming and shaming low-pay employers and doing other activities to highlight and fight against the exploitation of young workers. Socialist Youth held a picket of SuperValu in Omagh last year, when 16 and 17 year-old workers informed us that they were being paid just 2.58/hour, which had been increased from 2.50 by trade union negotiations.

Disgracefully, this was completely legal at the time. We called on people to boycott this employer for paying poverty wages. The great response we received plus the subsequent publicity embarrassed the management into increasing workers' wages to 3/hour well before they legally had too.

Socialist Youth says young workers must organise and fight back against exploitation and poverty pay. We campaign for a minimum wage of 6/hour with no age exemptions as a step towards the EU Decency Threshold of 8/hour. If you are unhappy with your pay, if you have a problem with your employer or have any questions about your rights at work, contact Socialist Youth on 07821058319.

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