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From: The Socialist issue 1072, 5 February 2020: 6.5 million working poor: Fight to end low pay

Search site for keywords: Low pay - Pay - Poverty - Workers - Housing - Jobs - Minimum wage - Inequality

6.5 million working poor: Fight to end low pay

Low pay, no way! photo Paul Mattsson

Low pay, no way! photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

There are now 6.5 million workers in the UK who are part of the "working poor." There are now more people who are both working and in poverty than people who are officially unemployed. There are more employed people in rent arrears than there are people officially unemployed!

When the BBC screened a new adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in December, the right-wing press and commentators slammed it.

Perhaps part of this was because the drama had a contemporary theme. It made you feel that Victorian poverty wasn't so very far away from Britain in 2020.

The Conservative Party mantra of "making work pay" is refuted in the lives of over six million people where work is no route out of poverty. Work, for many, has become the modern equivalent of the Victorian workhouse.

Throughout the nineties and noughties, many well-paid, secure jobs were wiped out, in manufacturing, public services and other sectors. In many sectors, such as retail and the caring professions, government subsidies were introduced to mask the scandal of low-paying employers.

Rather than the trade union leaders mobilising workers to fight against low pay, they never did. Well-paid jobs have become scarcer - and government subsidies have all but gone.

Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April,  photo London Socialist Party

Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April, photo London Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

To 'make work pay' we need to start by forcing bosses to pay decent wages that reflect the real cost of living. The Socialist Party demands a minimum wage of at least 12 an hour as an immediate step towards 15.

We need cheap and affordable rents through council housing and rent caps, and housing benefit that matches the real cost of housing.

We need our travel expenses to be affordable. We need childcare costs that don't prohibit us from being able to afford to work. We need to cut the working week without a loss of pay and share work out - it's illogical to have some toiling for 70 hours a week while others can't get anything but a part-time job. In short, we need socialist policies.

Just like today, in Dickens' day the bosses' profits boomed. They hoarded and speculated while those who toiled suffered.

Now, as then, we need a militant trade union fightback and a mass party to represent organised workers in the struggle against poverty, low pay and inequality.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 5 February 2020

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Thurrock council workers striking against pay cuts, photo by Dave Murray

Thurrock council workers striking against pay cuts, photo Dave Murray

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