Young workers – undermined

20th March, 2012 11:23 am

I am not aware of petrol stations offering a discount on a tank of fuel to the under-21s. Have I missed that housing costs are less for people under-21, and that supermarket shopping is discounted for young workers? Young people are not immune from the impact of rising costs of living and that’s just one reason why the decision not to increase the minimum wage youth rates is wrong.

The minimum wage rates for young workers were introduced to stop exploitation and to give young people dignity and protection in the workplace. This decision, signed off by ministers, undermines that aim.

These youth rates were hard fought for. I was part of the trade union movement in the early 2000s which debated this issue, campaigned and lobbied the Labour government. We made submissions and presented evidence to the Low Pay Commission. The commission and Labour ministers listened with a minimum wage introduced for 16 and 17 year olds in 2004. Since then young workers have had real protection in the workplace, and could enter the labour market free from the fear of low pay exploitation.

Tackling the youth unemployment crisis requires a real plan for jobs and growth. Confidence in the economy will get employers creating jobs for young people, not cutting wages. We need a government who will invest in the aspirations of Britain’s young people. Axing the Future Jobs Fund, getting rid of the EMA and allowing universities to increase tuition fees to £9000 are all a kick in the teeth for young people. Freezing the youth rates of the minimum wage when living costs are going up can be added to this list. The deficit will not be reduced by a race to the bottom in employment rights and workplace dignity.

Young people are paying a high cost for the failure of the coalition’s economic plan.  Remember this: there is no serious evidence to show that the minimum wage or its increases have had a negative impact on jobs. This coalition decision is one of political choice and not economic necessity.

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