Dear John, Francis and Heather,
Yesterday myself and other young workers were shocked to hear that the minimum wage will be frozen this year for those under 21. This is the first time that there has been a freeze in any aspect of the minimum wage. In addition to this, apprentices will get a measly 5p an hour pay rise, whilst those 21 and over will get a miserly 11p an hour pay rise, both way below the level that inflation is officially running at.
However, I was even more shocked to find out that this was based on recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission, on which all three of you sit as representatives of USDAW, the TUC and UNISON respectively. The freeze in the youth rate in particular is being justified on the basis that it "may increase their relative attractiveness to employers" (Low Pay Commission Report 2012, page xv). This position is essentially encouraging employers to use young people as a source of cheap labour that can undercut the wages of older workers, this is particularly outrageous when it follows young people campaigning against the government attempting to do a similar thing with it 'Work Experience', 'Mandatory Work Activity' and other workfare schemes.
In such circumstances I think it is only right that myself and other workers ask how you, as representatives of our unions, voted in this matter? To vote for such an outrageous attack on the living standards of young people would be an absolute scandal. Far from freezing the youth rate, trade unions should be fighting for a living minimum wage for all regardless of age - after all young people don't get a discount on their rent or bills for being under 21. We should work alongside organisations like Youth Fight for Jobs and Education to build a mass movement calling for genuine job creation. Steps towards this have been made in several areas with the 'Living Wage' been won in a number of councils and the abolition of youth rates in several parts of the retail sector including Tesco, Morrisons and The Co-operative. Unions should be aiming to build on these successes, not allow this commisions latest findings to give the government the excuse to undermine them.
I await your answers
a young USDAW member