When will someone in politics ‘do the right thing’ themselves and insist that the living wage be paid?

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October 8, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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For the first time in British history, the majority of people classified as living poverty are in work. Low pay has for too long been written off as a left wing bleeding heart issue, but this must be so no more. Every single taxpayer in this country should refuse to accept that we are paying £28 billion a year in benefits to those in work.

Except the Tories, and David Cameron in particular, have just told us that we should be accepting it. He says that he wants to reward those ‘doing the right thing’. If you are working, and being paid the minimum wage, and you can’t support your family, then you ARE doing the right thing, but you are not being rewarded fairly. A fifth of our workforce is paid an amount that makes life unsustainable. The living wage, which is reckoned to be £8.80 in London and around £7.65 an hour outside London, should be paid by everyone. It is getting near time to stop asking, and start telling.

Because it isn’t as if our companies aren’t making profits. Sainsburys made £760 million last year, but 60% of their staff rely on working tax credits to top up their salaries to sensible amounts. All this whilst the CEO of Sainsburys ekes by on £900,000 a year.

Why is it OK that there are people that we see every day as they work in their jobs who have to try and find as many hours as they can to get their pay up to an amount high enough to not have to rely on a food bank? Why is it OK that there are people who feed us, clean for us, sweep for us, serve us in a supermarket or in a restaurant, deal with our rubbish etc who have to go around Asda with a calculator just to make sure they can get by that week. Why is it Ok that there are people who toil, ‘do the right thing’, but dread their children’s birthdays, have to cancel holidays and for whom life is just one long trudge? Why is it OK that those who profit from their labour have nothing to worry about other than whether to buy that convertible Merc or not, whose hardest choice next year will be skiing or safari?

Raising the tax free threshold isn’t enough. For two reasons – firstly, some people will not be earning enough to be affected by it as they already earn less than £10,000. But more importantly, people actually want to be in a position to pay some tax – to be paid so little that you aren’t even expected to contribute to the ‘big society’ they are supposed to be a part of.

If the Tory party were serious about incentivising people to ‘do the right thing’ then they should absolutely be cutting benefits. But it is the benefits that have to be paid to those in work so that companies like supermarkets can make almost 10 figure profits that need to be cut. To do that, they ARE going to have to insist that the living wage is paid. Their refusal to even consider it speaks volumes.

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