A while back one of our offspring found themselves in a part-time holiday job in the services industry. It swiftly became obvious that the employer was not only not paying the legal minimum wage, he was not even paying the amount his employees had been promised.
Said employer operated a business in one of the most affluent areas in the country, and was charging customers accordingly. Our offspring did not need the money to stay afloat; some colleagues, though, were supporting families on that sub-standard wage.
Let’s just say the authorities became involved, and a degree of back pay was handed over.
There is a wonderful row raging back and forth this week, with some bosses of big quoted companies saying the requirement to pay, to over 25s only, a living wage will impact on their profits and require them to put up prices. This view is also held by the employers’ organisations. Oddly enough.
Some also claim it will put upwards pressure on wages generally, because employees slightly up the food chain will not want to be paid the same as those at the bottom.
Business supporters of the Government are in a bit of a quandary, though, because the measure was brought in by Prime Minister In Waiting George Osborne. Therefore other employers say, grudgingly, that it will put pressure on profits but it can be absorbed.
My take: if your business model requires you to pay poverty level wages, possibly topped up by tax credits, your business model is unviable. Threatening to put up prices is the equivalent of putting a gun to the customer’s head and saying, give us the money or he or she gets it.
Osborne’s move shows why he will be in charge by the 2020 election. One, it scuppers Labour’s claim to be the only party of the poorly paid.
Two, it chimes with people’s feelings that, as they get more prosperous, that prosperity should be spread around. And their guilt that the person serving them with expensive drinks, coffee, meals, consumer goods, whatever, that they can increasingly afford is being exploited. Or on a zero hours contract.
Bear in mind that many of us are launching our offspring onto the jobs market, whether part time or at the start of their career, and are equally concerned that they are being exploited. See our experience, above.
Four, it sends a dog whistle message. Don’t think unscrupulous employers can import appallingly paid migrants, exploit them and do you out of a job. We won’t let them.