The introduction of the National Minimum Wage was one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour Government but there is a continuing need to tackle the problems of low pay in our economy after five years of the Coalition. Five million people are in low-paid jobs earning less than the Living Wage. Average wages have fallen £1,600 a year since 2010. There are more and more people on precarious zero-hours contracts 1.3 million people are working part-time because they cannot get a full-time job. Half of all those in poverty live in working households. And 900,000 people, many of them in work, used food banks last year. This is completely unacceptable; not only is this bad for individuals and families, but it’s also bad for business.
Labour campaigned at the General Election for an increase in the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019, a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts and promotion of the Living Wage which I am proud to say that Leeds City Council is committed to implement. Indeed it is Labour local authorities that are leading the way on paying the Living Wage.
Labour is also campaigning to address insecurity in the labour market, which is why we would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts so that if someone works regular hours for 12 weeks they’ll receive a regular contract. We think it should be illegal to use agency workers to undercut the wages of permanent employees and we would ban recruitment agencies from hiring only from overseas. We also think that the Government should abolish the employment tribunal fee system to ensure proper justice in the workplace as part of wider reforms to create a remedy that is quicker for employers and employees and cheaper for the taxpayer.
Rt Hon Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central