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Britain needs a pay rise

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07 November 2014
Britain needs a pay rise Last month, I joined Lewisham Deptford’s Labour candidate for Parliament, Vicky Foxcroft, and thousands of others on a march through London to highlight the scourge of low pay with the simple slogan ‘Britain needs a pay rise’. It’s a simple statement that highlights a simple truth: far too many people in this country are not paid enough for the work they do. 

Some argue that low pay is good for business – more money ploughed back into enterprise means more economic growth. I’m not so sure that stacks up.  Low pay may sometimes mean higher profits but it can also mean demoralised staff, who are preoccupied with their daily struggle of trying to make work pay. 

At my advice surgeries, I constantly meet men and women on modest incomes who tell me that paying the rent and paying the bills is virtually impossible. Add to that the ever-increasing cost of public transport and the “cost of living crisis” is a very harsh reality for many people.

The truth is that low pay stifles our economy, stunts tax coming into the Treasury and ends up in more government borrowing that we can ill afford. 

Rising levels of “under-employment” also makes this problem worse. The numbers of people under this government who wish to work full-time but instead work part-time has increased by 260,000 – a number approximately equal to every man, woman and child living in the Borough of Lewisham. 

When Government Ministers pat themselves on the back about the economy, they seem to have closed their eyes to the problems of those on low pay.

This is especially for case for women. Forty years on from Equal Pay Act, the gender pay gap (the difference between average earnings for men and women) still persists – in fact it’s started to rise again.

If we carry on at the same rate of progress, the schoolgirls of today will be approaching retirement before we reach equality. That’s why the Labour Party wants to see big companies publishing their pay gap and why we will introduce tax breaks for companies who pay the Living Wage.

In six months you can decide if ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ rings true - because it’s not just a shot in the arm for the employee but a shot in the arm for Britain too. We need decent, well-paid jobs in an economy which benefits all – not just those at the top.

This article was originally written for the South London Press and was published on 7th November 2014.

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