Fair pay seems to have overtaken zero hours as a prominent issue of party conference season. Reports that James Cleverly, former Tory group leader on the London Assembly, made a throw away call at a Conservative conference fringe meeting for the national minimum wage to be scrapped have been shut down pretty quickly. Although controversial when introduced in 1998, the national minimum wage (NMW) now seems firmly accepted by all political parties and embedded in our national psyche as a respectable pay floor and necessary bar to wage exploitation. Scrapping it is not an obvious vote winner.
On Monday the NMW for those over 21 years of age increased from £6.19 to £6.31. For those aged 18 to 20 the increase was from £4.98 to £5.03 and for the under 18s the increase was from £3.68 to £3.72. But although the NMW provides a statutory floor, does it provide "fair" pay? The rates have not kept up with inflation since the NMW was introduced and although Ed Miliband was reticent about committing to an increase under a Labour Government, he is in favour of a review.
Sitting above the NMW is the voluntary "Living Wage" promoted by the Living Wage Foundation. There is a London Living Wage of £8.55 per hour and a UK Living Wage of £7.45 per hour. Support is not limited to the usual suspects. London Mayor, Boris Johnson has said "Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too."
The Living Wage Foundation believes that work should be the surest way out of poverty. It supports, recognises and celebrates the leadership shown by Living Wage Employers in the UK. Prominent among those is Scottish energy company SSE which recently became the UK’s largest officially accredited Living Wage employer. The company has nearly 20,000 staff across the UK and says it will guarantee all employees at least £7.45 an hour plus in the new year will ensure that the same is true of all employers in its supply chain.