I fear the general public is in danger today of ignoring an incredibly vital issue that was set to be debated in the Commons this afternoon (but has in effect, been defeated and thrown out). The Employment Opportunities Bill, introduced to the House by Tory MP for Christchurch Christopher Chope. It raises the issue of Minimum wage, and suggests that, with the consent of the employee, employers should be able to opt out of paying minimum wage. It is, in essence, an abolition of the minimum wage bill.
Now, ignoring the fact that whilst Mr Chope doesn’t much care for those of us who could not afford to live on less than minimum wage, let alone hope to one day get a foot on the housing ladder, he didn’t appear to have a problem claiming £136,992 last year in expenses. Perhaps that money could go to helping those who would so severely be hit economically by his disastrous bill, buy food? We already can’t afford gas and electric since his party privatised it all during the ’80s.
Are the Tories really that naive as to think any employee is going to agree to opt out of minimum wage, without the employer saying “Sign this agreement to opt out, or fuck off”? It would encourage businesses that are not struggling, to pay beneath minimum wage. Prices would deflate hugely as a result. And all companies would start to opt out on a grand scale, because minimum wage does not work unless it’s universally applied. It would, in truth, be a disaster.
Chope said “Our government make it illegal for an employer and an employee freely to negotiate the level of remuneration if it is less than £5.73 an hour for an adult, unless, of course, the work involved is unpaid voluntary work.” That damn Government, trying to help those who were quite routinely exploited during the Tory reign of terror, live a better life. How dare they. I particularly dislike his use of the term “negotiate”. If an employer says “you either accept a pay decrease to £1 an hour, or i’ll employ someone who will”, that isn’t a negotiation, that’s exploitation. It is not a bill to help people surf the tide of recession by having access to more jobs albeit with slightly lower pay, it’s a bill to increase productivity of workers whilst paying as little as possible, it’s a bill to help employ at the lowest costs possible, whilst be able to pay just enough to keep employees alive to actually do the work. For example, one of the Tory MPs who backs this bill, is Peter Bone, famous for once paying a 17 year old trainee 87p for work in his Travel Company. The old face of exploitative Toryism just refuses to die.
It is no surprise that it is Mr Chope promoting this bill. He is responsible for selling off Council Houses in the 1980s, which lead to Mrs Thatcher’s re-election, gaining support from those who would typically vote Labour given that they could now afford to own their own home. In the process, it completely screwed over my generation, who will find it almost impossible, short of becoming a Lawyer (or an MP), of owning my own home. The Government of the 1980s made it easier for those wanting to buy multiple homes to do so, which in turn pushed the average house price up by 225% between 1983 and 1990, which meant sea side home were bought up and used once or twice a year, which meant villages like Beadnell in Northumberland are forced to close schools and businesses local to the area, because 256 out of the 500 homes, are holiday homes! Thanks Chope! You’re a genius! Chope went on to say that being FORCED to work for minimum wage, was against our “human rights”. Note, that this is from a party opposed to the Human Rights Act.
idiots Geniuses over at Cambridge University Conservative Association (as if you’d expect them to understand the point of the minimum wage in the first place) say “ the minimum wage causes unemployment (a surplus of labour)“. No it doesn’t. It’s regressive, especially during a recession, to suggest that employers should be able to pay those who are already struggling to pay their bills, a lot less. It’s inexcusably immoral at best. They’ve decided upon the conclusion that minimum wage causes unemployment, due to their dedication to Thatcherite Neoliberalism. Not to concrete evidence. Surely if every firm is paying minimum wage, then equilibrium is achieved? Market forces cannot work against a universal principle. It creates a level playing field for all firms, whilst protecting the most vulnerable, from what i’m now going to refer to as “Cambridge Universitism“. The only conceivable way that markets will fail, is by introducing an Opt Out system, where by some firms stick in principle to minimum wage, whilst their competitors see an opportunity to capitalise on paying their employees, 35p an hour. In which case, those employees will want to go elsewhere, to companies that pay minimum wage, and the exploiting Company based on “Cambrigde Universitism” fails anyway?
The minimum wage was introduced in the UK in 1999, the pay was set at £3.30. Since then it has rose to £5.73 an hour, and comes with strict penalties for firms caught not abiding by their responsibilities. It benefits huge numbers of the lowest paid workers in the Country, which in turn, provides a higher rate of disposable income (some were paid as little as 80p an hour during the Thatcher years), and so benefits the economy on the whole. There is little argument that minimum wage is one of New Labour’s greatest achievements, and has helped improve the living conditions of millions since it’s introduction in 1999. Except, if you’re an expenses cheating Tory MP, or you’re in your own haven from the rich at Cambridge, obviously.
Cambridge go on to say “Indeed, now that we are in a recession, it is surely responsible for even more unemployment.” Followed by “Unemployment will never be minimised as long as minimum wage legislation remains in force.“…… Again, no evidence, merely sticking to Neoliberalist principles that says minimum wages prices people out of jobs. Unemployment (which spiked during the Thatcher era, despite the lack of minimum wage) was falling steadily year on year when minimum wage was introduced. Two years later, unemployment was at it’s lowest in decades. This is true for both full time and part time workers. In fact, by 2000, unemployment was at it’s lowest in 25 years. You’d surely expect, a year after minimum wage has been introduced, by Cambridge Univertism 19th Century Factory exploitation logic, and Peter Bone MP, who said in 1998 that a “A minimum wage would condemn hundreds of thousands to the dole queue.” that unemployment would have rose dramatically, almost inconceivably so, by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, but no, it fell, and continued to fall, pretty much until recession hit.
Recession of cause, had absolutely nothing to do with minimum wage, and everything to do with the greed of banking Neoliberalists, which in turn lead to suspicion in the banking sector and reluctance to lend. Minimum wage was not the cause, and minimum wage did not make the situation worse. In fact, having a minimum wage can help, given that mortgage lenders lend on the strength of income. If you’re being paid 80p an hour, you aren’t in a better position to be claiming a mortgage. Regardless of what these toffs say, Minimum Wage has provided security for millions of workers, who in turn have lead a healthier , more secure and happier life. It doesn’t cause mass unemployment, no more so than before minimum wage legislation was introduced. It prevents the greed of certain employers driving down wages as much as possible.
It is worrying that such a senior Conservative, advocates such regressive nonsense, at a time when Conservatives are almost inevitably set to become the next Government of the United Kingdom. Chope seems to be attacking Labour on the introduction of the minimum wage, appearing to be concerned with rising unemployment and yet didn’t have a problem when 3,000,000 people were left unemployed, and untrained, the homeless rate shot up, and the poll tax that he helped usher in creating mass unemployment, the deaths of thousands of businesses (including ours), and unprecedented rioting, due to the policies he endorsed in the eighties. The only difference now is, we at least have some protection for our lowest paid…. which he doesn’t seem to like. He appears to be in denial that deregulation of the labour market, would be a disaster during recession.
The same Tories were telling us all, a few months back, that you had to pay bankers high to provide incentive for them to work hard. Now they’re telling me that same logic doesn’t apply to those who are paid least? Why is Chope not proposing legislation to cut down on tax loopholes for the super rich? Why is he proposing to hit the lowest paid workers the hardest? Simple answer, he’s a Tory, and he’s supported by Cambridge Universitism.
Chope, who opposed the introduction of the minimum wage ten years ago, and seemingly still carries a grudge, speaking on behalf of Conservatives who oppose Minimum Wage, said, quite comically: “We are talking about the marketplace and people should be free to compete in the marketplace without restriction“. Well in that case, I cannot wait to see Chope introduce a bill to abolish or “opt out” of the Factory Acts and all anti-discrimination laws, so that people are “free without restriction” to hire whomever they wish, for as long as they wish, for as much as they wish. Let’s have no restrictions on employment. Let’s be fully regressive!
The Tories are starting to show themselves for what they really are. Stuck in the 1980s.