Eleanor Firman, Unite Community activist and Left Unity member, shares her views on yesterday’s announcement by Chancellor George Osborne.
The compulsory National Living Wage which Osborne announced today is a complete and utter con. The media are hyping it as the Tories stealing Labour’s clothes but the miniscule Living Wage is not about Osborne getting tough with low wage-paying bosses – the reality is in fact the complete opposite: the Tory Chancellor is merely instructing businesses to return a tiny fraction of the money that has been stolen from our (social) wages and handed to bosses in the form of the employers’ National Insurance ‘allowance’ that began last year (up to £2000 per employer) and was increased by Osborne yesterday to £3000.
Society seems to have forgotten that Employers’ N.I. contributions are actually part of wages – they are the portion of the wage that instead of being paid direct to the employee is forwarded directly to Treasury by the employer where it is pooled with all N.I. contributions and returned to workers in the form of the social wage i.e. the welfare state provisions of pensions, the NHS, compulsory education and social housing. So employer’s contributions are actually our wages but we don’t see it because it is paid on our behalf and then collectivised before we get our pay packet. This collectivisation includes spending in the form of social assistance for those who cannot work due to their impairments or those whose pay is inadequate.
This system of social insurance that began in 1946 is commonly referred to as the post war social settlement but understood by the left as a compromise between labour and capital to fend off rising social unrest: capital could keep a certain amount of profit if workers laboured not just for subsistence wages in the form of cash, but also improved social conditions.
Now public services and welfare are being dismantled and employers are being made to give back a tiny portion of their new N.I. allowance to the workers in the form of the new ‘national living wage’ – but the overall amount of tax and N.I. allowances bosses receive will more than offset a marginally more expensive workforce. Let’s not forget corporation tax was also cut to 18% along with other tax breaks for the rich. So this national ‘living wage’ is not just a downgraded replacement of the higher voluntary living wage as many are pointing out, – but is actually a cut to the existing compulsory minimum wage.
Osborne was deadly serious when he described his budget as a new social settlement. But do the public realise what has really been lost? Less tax and less welfare does not just mean higher incomes for a few, and lower incomes for the many. It means less public services as well as greater financial inequality. Iain Duncan Smith’s reaction yesterday in the Commons and the following day in the Daily Telegraph, clearly signalled that for people like him who only came into politics to realise the vision of Margaret Thatcher, Osborne’s National Living Wage is a dream come true. For the rest of us it’s a laissez faire nightmare.
 In a bid to reassure businesses, the chancellor also reiterated that the cost to business will amount to one per cent of corporate profits, which he has offset with the cut in corporation tax to 18 per cent. Smaller firms would be helped by a cut in their national insurance contributions. From 2016, the new employment allowance will be increased by 50 per cent to £3,000 and a company employing four full-time workers on the new national living wage would pay no national insurance.
This is based on the introduction to a discussion on the politics of disability given by Roderick C at a recent Waltham Forest Left Unity meeting.
Like blacks, women and LGBT people, disabled people are a group who routinely suffer discrimination and oppression in society. Although some argue that this is the inevitable result of the physical and mental impairments that we possess, or people’s basic prejudices about disabled people, this article argues that the systematic oppression of disabled people as we know it today has at its root how capitalism developed as a system.
In saying this, we should avoid idealising pre-capitalist society. Although there is undoubtedly some truth in the idea that in such societies, based on rural subsistence production and extended families, disabled members of the family would be cared for and even contribute to production, prejudice was rife in many societies. Martin Luther famously called disabled children “changelings” and argued they should be put to death, and in ancient Greece a child was not regarded as a child for seven days after birth, allowing disabled babies to be killed without moral stigma.
This statement has been agreed by Left Unity’s executive committee.
Left Unity supports Rabina Khan in the 11 June re-run of the Tower Hamlets mayoral election.
She is standing to defend democracy in Tower Hamlets at a time when the council is being taken over by Tory government agencies, whipping up Islamophobic scare stories to justify sending in Eric Pickles and his unelected commissioners. The continuing case against Lutfur Rahman, who has vowed to clear his name, is being used as an excuse to dismantle the whole democratically elected council.
Rabina has a strong left-wing record. As cabinet member for housing in Tower Hamlets she has overseen the building of thousands of new social and affordable homes, and the investment of millions of pounds in refurbishing council housing. If successful she would become the first elected female Muslim mayor in Britain.
We call on the left to unite in support of the campaign to defend democracy in Tower Hamlets and in support of Rabina Khan’s candidacy.
There is more about the campaign at Rabina Khan’s website.
By Waltham Forest Left Unity member Susan Pashkoff
The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected. This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.
However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).
Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany. Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!
Tickets for the meeting on Thursday 16th October “Podemos, Syriza, Left Unity: Doing politics differently” are still available.