Leading members of the Kent Labour Party took time off from their Conference at the Gravesham Civic Offices on Monday to celebrate one of the key achievements of the Last Labour Government, the introduction 15 years ago of the National Minimum Wage.
The celebration brought together Labour’s top placed candidate for the European elections, Anneliese Dodds, Labour ‘s Parliamentary candidate for the South Thanet constituency Will Scobie and Labour County Councillors on the Kent County Council.
However, whilst welcoming the progress made on low wages, Anneliese Dodds warned that many employers are currently getting away with not paying the National Minimum Wage because of a lack of enforcement action by the Government.
Although in theory the Government has said it will ‘name and shame’ employers which do not pay the National Minimum Wage, so far only five employers have been named (of whom none were from Kent) and of those, three had underpaid less than £1000 to only one worker. No action has been taken against those larger firms which have been exploiting workers by failing to pay them the National Minimum Wage. In addition, the Government has lobbied in Brussels against measures which would make it illegal for employers to pay foreign agency staff less, and give them worse terms and conditions, than UK workers. Finally, the Government has also abolished the Agricultural Wages Board which regulated wages and working conditions in agriculture.
The National Minimum Wage is currently £6.31 for adults, £5.03 for 18-20 year olds and £3.72 for under 18s.
Anneliese said: “It’s great to be celebrating the National Minimum Wage’s 15th birthday today. My first job was paid £2 an hour- and I’m pleased that those days are gone. Although the Conservative Party argued against the National Minimum Wage, saying it would cost jobs, in practice it has lifted thousands of low-paid people out of poverty over the last decade and a half. But the National Minimum Wage will only work if it is properly enforced- and we’ve seen enforcement reduced significantly under this government”