THE LABOUR PARTY has always had as a key principle that we will act to materially improve the condition of the working class.
From this comes our commitment to an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work. There are many aspects of the fight against pay discrimination - gender, race and sexual orientation, for example. But being a young, straight, white male, the pay struggle that I am most qualified to talk about is that relating to age discrimination.
Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories have introduced their so-called ‘national living wage’ for those over the age of 25 - currently set at £7.83 per hour. The national living wage has a nice title but is much lower than the £8.75 (or £10.20 in London) that the independent Living Wage Foundation - which sets the real living wage - has calculated is needed for somebody to have a minimum income required to live. The Tories have made it perfectly legal for employers to discriminate against people who are under 25. 24 year olds do the same work as 25 year olds and yet they can legally be paid up to 43p an hour less.
That’s why I am proud that the Labour Party supports the fight for equal pay regardless of age and that we have agreed that the next Labour government will set public procurement policy to ensure these values are promoted in every contract involving an arm of national or local government.
But we don’t need to wait for a Labour government. We are involved in the administration of 134 councils across the UK - each of which have some control of procurement policy for their own councils. So why do we still have public contracts being issued by Labour councils that allow pay for young workers at a lower level?
As a member of the Unite London and Eastern Young Members Committee, I’ve recently been involved with a campaign focused on the leisure provider GLL, also known as ‘Better’. GLL have leisure contracts with councils all over the country. Some of these councils are Real Living Wage certified councils but, as GLL management confessed, they do not pay the real living wage to those under the age of 21. This provision was written into the contract they had with several London councils.
When we heard this, Unite complained to these councils but received the same reply - that they couldn’t change the provision mid-contract. We discovered, after Tower Hamlets Labour followed our suggestion and provided more money to GLL to cover the cost of the 21% pay increase, that this is rubbish and firms are happy to pay more if more money is provided. All that is needed is the political leadership by councils to follow national Labour policy and put their money where their mouth is.
Are you angry about this and want to do something about it? Why not write to your local Labour councillors and ask them to review your council’s procurement policy and current contracts. Even better, join Unite and come along and give us a hand in our campaign.
St. Helens South and Whiston CLP