Fair pay for the many, not the few.
I believe that fair pay is not just for the good times. In fact the opposite is the case. Fairness needs to be strengthened not abandoned when the going gets tough. That is why fair pay must be a key part of the Government's wider fairness agenda to see us through these trying times. Low earners shouldn't pay the price in wage cuts because of failures in the banking and finance industry.
That is why I am determined to all I can to make sure that those in our community who are most vulnerable - those hard-working individuals who care for our relatives, cook our children's school dinners, and clean our hospitals - are guaranteed the fair pay and employment rights that will help them to get through these trying times.
The case against low pay3 is clear, unequivocal and familiar to many. Low paid work affects approximately 5.3 million people - over a fifth of all employees in this country. Since 1997 the Labour Government has sought to ameliorate some of the worst affects of low-paid work for those individuals who receive it. Yet while the National Minimum Wage, basic holiday entitlements, the Working Time Directive, tax credits have benefited millions they have not reversed the trends which began in the late 1970s towards a labour market defined by a high-incidence of low-paid work.
Levels of low pay, taking the commonly used definition, have therefore remained unchanged in the last decade and remain extremely high. International comparisons suggest that its incidence in the United Kingdom is still one of the highest in Europe.
A labour market of this kind not only stymies economic performance - low pay is associated with low value-added employment and low productivity - but compounds a variety of social injustices by contributing to persistently high levels of relative poverty and inequality. For this reason low pay is a social injustice in its own right and its reduction a crucial step in building a fairer society.
Low pay substantially increases the chance of finding oneself in ‘working poverty.'10 This is why less than a fifth of low-paid adults (19 per cent) earned enough to lift their household out of poverty through their wages alone, compared to more than three-quarters of non-low-paid workers and 57 per cent of households and nearly half of the three million children living below the poverty line have at least one person at work in their household.
The case is irrefutable: poverty and low pay are entwined over the life course individuals and across generations.13 While analysis and statistics flow endlessly from our pens the reality for many of our fellow citizens living in a low-wage households is going without meals, clothing, holidays, educational opportunities, heating, healthcare and medicine, and basic leisure activities that the rest of us take for granted.
I have campaigned vigorously against the injustice of low-paid work and for fair pay. As Chair of the Fair Pay Network - a coalition of fourteen national organisations including Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group, the Fawcett Society, and UK Alliance Against Poverty with patrons drawn from employers and trades unions - since its inception in February last year I have worked hard to make the public aware of the struggle of low-paid workers in our community and have fought against unacceptable levels of low-paid employment and working poverty.
I'll be running various campaigns over the next few months, despite the tough economic conditions we face, to ensure we continue to encourage and sustain the steps made towards a fair pay culture.
I'll be letting you know what I'm doing and how you can help me in due course.
Karen Buck MP