Minimum wage: pay the full rate at 16

IT IS five years since Tony Blair's New Labour government introduced the first ever minimum wage into British law, which it hailed as an example of 'social justice' and a 'striking achievement'.

By Chris Loughlin

These claims ignored the dismally low rate at which the minimum wage was set and the fact that the legislation was deliberately designed to discriminate against young people. Five years on not much has changed. The minimum wage currently is a paltry 4.50 for 22 years old and over, 3.80 for 18-21 year olds an there is no minimum wage for those aged below this.

As part of the Government's annual review of the minimum wage the Low Pay Commission is currently taking contributions to its deliberations. One of the first to submit information this year was the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which clearly made a call for a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds.

The TUC says that at least 10% of young workers would benefit from a minimum wage of just 3.00. It is more likely that at least 40% of 16 and 17 year olds would benefit from a 3 minimum, as the information below testifies.

The Low Pay Unit in Manchester found that a quarter of 16 year olds were getting only 1.75. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers report on low pay found a 17 year old working for just 1.60. It also came across a full time worker aged 17 getting 2.35 for 43 hours a week, that's 100 a week!

The figures for Northern Ireland are even worse. Yet one unionist MLA recently justified this, arguing that young people "are not as productive as older workers."

The fact the TUC is calling for a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds is to be applauded, but what is being proposed is not nearly enough.

Socialist Youth remain committed to getting rid of the youth exemptions. The minimum wage should be at least 6 an hour and this should be paid to everyone aged 16 and over. We are launching a campaign to expose the scandalous wages being paid to young workers and to force wages up.

Many employers here are still getting away with not implementing the current minimum wage. We will continue 'naming and shaming' and picketing low pay employers in the current months. If you have any information on employers you would like "named and shamed" contact us immediately.



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This article is from the January 2004 edition of Socialist Voice. Back issues are available here.