How many legs does a horse have, if you call its tail a leg?
Answer: Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one!
On 8 July 2015, George Osborne – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – dropped a budget speech bombshell: the introduction of a statutory living wage.
For one brief moment it felt like the world had turned upside down. A Tory Government introducing a legally-backed national living wage? You really couldn’t make it up!
And, of course, you couldn’t.
For the Tories ‘National Living Wage’ is nothing of the sort. From the get-go, it was announced as applying only to those aged 25 and over. Those under 25 years of age not really needing to live, apparently.
In October 2015 it was announced the ‘National Living Wage would be implemented from April 2016 at a rate of £7.20 per hour, and – with the aim of reaching 60% of median earnings – projected to reach £9.00 by 2020.
It is predicted some 6 million workers will benefit if that aim is achieved. Some of the UK’s low-pay ‘hotspots’ could see significant increases if employers didn’t seek to offset the additional cost by cutting staffing or other terms and conditions.
The minimum wage target really is a good move – and many of those aged 25+ will see an improvement in their pay packet.
But calling it a ‘National Living Wage’ is deceit of the first order. We already have a real Living Wage that is independently calculated.
Living Wage campaigns in the UK started in 2001, and with the creation of the Living Wage Foundation, have become an established part of the economic and industrial landscape. Nearly 3000 employers – from Aviva to UNISON – are accredited Living Wage employers, voluntarily paying a Living Wage rate, just revised upwards to £8.45 per hour (£9.75 per hour in London). And it is paid at those rates regardless of age.
So the Government has stolen the name of the real Living Wage, and dressed up what is in fact a 4th level of the national minimum wage as their ‘National Living Wage’.
And now, the Resolution Foundation has issued a stark warning about the impact of exiting the EU on low-paid workers. They face the prospect of losing up to £800 a year.
So we need to press and win the case for a Living Wage that means what it says on the tin.
Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one!