The arguments for not only greater punishments and larger fines for employers not paying the minimum wage, but for the minimum wage to be increased up to living wage levels, are coming thick and fast, and are welcome.When the CBI chief sees the need for improvement in workers` pay, the situation has to be serious, and leads inevitably to further points needing to be addressed.
One is that Labour needs to be more pro-active in this area, what many observers might consider their own territory, as there is a danger that the other mainstream parties might upstage them. With both Tories and Lib Dems struggling to retain their traditional voters, and with political principles in the run-up to a general election mattering little, Labour must pledge a substantial increase in the minimum wage. It could even be on the cards for Clegg to do this, given his party`s sudden concern for workers` welfare, and demand for £100,000 fines for employers not paying it.Miliband needs to get in some populist announcements on the minimum wage, higher taxes for the rich, and positive action against the City`s tax avoiders and evaders, before campaigning for the European elections begin.
The other point is that raising the minimum wage levels, whilst obviously being a start in the improvement of the standard of living of many, is not sufficient on its own. Will it not, for example, lead to employers taking on more part-time staff on zero-hours contracts, will large employers like supermarkets and online suppliers not become more determined to find loopholes in tax legislation, and will not exploititative landlords be more inclined to raise rents further, in the knowledge that their tenants ` income has risen? In view of the news about the massive pay hike for some university vice-chancellors, perhaps it`s time to consider a salary cap, or at least a three year freeze on all salaries over £100,000?
Hopefully, Jon Cruddas`s committees have been doing some joined-up thinking on these issues, so some sharing of their conclusions with the electorate, from the Labour leadership, would be welcomed.