North: Young workers must Fight Low Pay

From The Socialist (September 2007)

Another year, another supposed increase in the minimum wage. From the 1st October the politicians will be praising themselves for an increase of 3% across the minimum wage rates. They will conveniently forget that inflation is running between 5% and 6% and this ‘increase’ in real terms represents a cut for low-paid workers.

New Labour’s recent threat to break the minimum wage up on a regional basis and lower it in Northern Ireland to £4.80 is a real threat for the future. If the Government tries to pit worker against worker based on where they live, only a joint campaign across Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales can defeat these attacks.

Even the pitifully low minimum wage is still being flouted by many employers. Since 1997 there has only been one successful criminal prosecution for paying under the minimum wage. The likelihood of getting caught and the small compensation companies have to pay mean it is more profitable for some to ignore the legislation. Workers taking action and naming and shaming employers are the best ways of forcing bosses to pay up.

Scandalously apprentices aged under 18 have been treated like slave labour by employers due to exemptions in the minimum wage. Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning, has introduced a new ‘Training for Success’ plan which is designed to force apprentices to work for nothing. According to the Minister apprentices will be “required to be in employment” but will still be exempt from the minimum wage with no guarantee of a trade at the end of it. This is slave labour for bosses.

A 17 year old worker doing the same work as someone a few months older can legally be paid £1.20 an hour less. If you compare a 17 year old to a 22 year old worker the gap widens to £2.12 an hour for doing exactly the same work. In 2001, the Socialist Party’s End Low Pay Campaign succeeded in getting a motion to abolish youth exemptions passed through the Assembly. But the politicians have done nothing to act on this and will continue to do so unless pressure is put on them by young workers.

Socialist Youth’s Fight Back! Campaign will be holding meetings and protests to organise young workers to fight for our rights. If you are a young low paid worker or feeling unfairly treated at work then get in contact with us today at 02890232962 or 07876146473.

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