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Sunday, 25 February

Sages On (Low) Wages

An array of political and business leaders have given their views on the prevalence of low incomes in the UK.

The Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Cridland, stated: “As the financial situation of many firms begins to turn a corner, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is to deliver growth that will mean better pay and more opportunities for all their employees after a prolonged squeeze.”

Mr Cridland went on to make clear that any such steps had to be taken within the context of a sustainable recovery but the message was clear that there had to be a fair reflection in an improvement for all working in the economy.

As if to emphasise this, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that since 2008, average earnings had fallen in real terms by 13.8% and even more in the London area where it was 20.4%.

Not surprisingly, the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, added to the argument with his call to end the ‘chronic dependency’ the UK had on what he termed cheap foreign labour. He singled out those businesses that paid agency staff less than permanent workers.

And as if to confirm that we are approaching an election period, the Conservative led Government has issued a degree of caution in the debate on low wages. Prime minister, David Cameron, declared that the Government was ensuring the national minimum wage was being enforced but linked this to the need to stop illegal immigration.

Chancellor, George Osborne was more specific about the need for wage levels to rise. "I think everyone wants to see an increase in the minimum wage,” he conceded. “But it has to be done in a way that doesn't cost jobs, because that would be self-defeating. We have a Low Pay Commission as a body that exists to make exactly that judgment.”

Article written by Mike Gannon

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