Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Philip Davies and the minimum wage for disabled people

An MP called Philip Davies didn't seem to be very popular on my Facebook newsfeed and Tweeter feeds last week, he'd allegedly said something along the lines of disabled employees should be paid less than other employees. That's clearly discriminatory and just shows how evil Conservatives and right-wingers in general are.

One twitterer reckoned that Philip Davies thinks that Stephen Hawking should be working for below minimum wage.

On a related note, this time three years ago I was very much unemployed, claiming job seekers allowance at a rate of about £1.80 an hour. After eight months of unemployment, I somehow managed to scrape myself into a minimum wage job sweeping floors in a sandwich factory, where I was the only native English speaker on the shop floor for around £5.75 and hour. It was sheer hell, After a few months I displayed a bit of talent and got myself transferred to the Quality department and got a 50p pay rise to £6.25 per hour. After six months of walking to work at 4am to be moaned at and given impossible tasks, I handed in my resignation and signed up to a temping agency and got a job for £10 an hour filing in an office in regular office hours, and after twelve months of turn up on time every day I was taken of full time permanent at around £12.30 per hour, which is about the same as I was on at the peak of my previous career in British hifi manufacturing.

Its like an employment ladder, you start on the bottom rung and work your way updeveloping your talents, self-esteem and trust with your employers.

Anyhoo, back to Philip Davies MP, his name was familiar to me, one of the libertarian blogs I subscribe, Dick Puddlecoat, has Philip Davies as their blog mascot and reports on when he's done anything note-worthy in parliament.

It seems that rather than saying that disabled people are subhuman scum should be paid less than able-bodied people for doing the same work, he said:-
If those people who consider it [the minimum wage] is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that's some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don't see why we should be standing in their way.

I can see kind of where's he's coming from even if I don't agree, I'm empathic like that, its one of my skillz.I could be mistaken, but it doesn't look like he's suggesting that anyone is forced to take a pay cut. Unless you've got what could be considered a imaginary evil tory strawman in mind, that you want to project concepts and policies onto to justify your own opposing beliefs.
For days I've been rumbling in ma heid if I should blog about this and how, how I would frame it all. I want to raise reader's ire, but at the same time I want to cover my back against the sort of claims Philip Davies faced for being evil.
So here's a few bullet points:-
  • How come young people are on a lower minimum wage? that's already enshrined in law, is it as evil as having a lower minimum wage for disabled people? More so perhaps? Is their labour somehow worth less than elder workers? Or is it accepted that inexperienced labour is worth less. Did anyone accuse the 1998 government of being evil? Well, yes.
  • The old strawberry picking / minimum wage line. A punnet of strawberries is worth X amount of money. That's how much they sell for in the shops. So if you can't collect a minimum wages worth of strawberries in an hour then the employer would be making a loss by employing you compared to someone who can, so you'll never get the job. Sure with a bit of practice you might become faster at collecting strawberries, but under the current system, you're going to have to be a volunteer and provide your labour for free until you're fast enough, unless you find an uneconomically generous strawberry farmer. If your labour isn't yet worth £5.75 no one will buy. Would you pay £1.89 for a 16p can of lager?
  • Why would you want to stay in a minimum wage job for ages. Can't you make yourself better at doing something and then get a better job? Why would you stay where there are only minimum wage jobs. Millions of people travel thousands of miles in search of better jobs all the time. Some of my colleagues in the sandwich factory, on their minimum wage, would send money back home, cos the jobs back home paid so little in comparison.
  • In London a return the underground cost about £5. In Glasgow a return ticket costs £2.40. Down south a minimum wage worker has to work twice as long just to get to work. Likewise house prices and rents vary enormously across the country. The minimum wage is hell in some places and more comfortable in others. Sometimes for two people working side-by side.

Anyhoo, in my Walthamstow survivalist cabin these points are moot, Philip Davies is wrong, the disabled, the vulnerable should not be singled out for special dispensation of the minimum wage. The main thrust of my argument about minimum wage, be it for the disabled, young people and everyone else, is this:- Minimum wage should be a personal choice.
The state shouldn't have anything to do with it.
What is the minimum wage that you specifically would work for?

People are very rarely forced to work in the UK, slave labour is the exception and against the law. Its a free choice. If you work you get paid money, if you don't you then you are beholden to the state on benefits. If you've got a shit job, feel free to quit.
Also, what makes you think that the minimum wage that you would chose to work for is the same as the minimum wage that any other person else would chose to work for?
Now since I typed this piece, I've read up the wikipedia page on minimum wage, the Minimum Wage Act UK 1998 and the actual Hansard debate from whence Philip Davies has been quoted. And also via twitter, a variety of other bloggists have written on the matter, some with similar opinions, some raging, and some widely differing.

  • Some people like concept of the minimum wage
  • Some people don't like the idea of it
  • Some disabled people like the idea of the minimum wage
  • Some disabled people don't like the idea of the minimum wage
  • Some people thing the minimum wage is too low
  • Some evidence shows that the minimum wage is a good positive thing
  • Some evidence shows that the minimum wage is a bad negative thing
  • Some evidence is overwhelmingly authoritative and conclusive
  • People chose to support and promote which ever evidence and research supports their own views

I remember back when I was unemployed, I thought at the time that the minimum wage was too high and I'd willingly work for less in order to not be unemployed. I still do. I think people should be able to opt out of the minimum wage. Luckily they can.
There are plenty of employers who, outwith the system, pay below minimum wage regardless of the law.
Anyhoo, if we must have a minimum wage dictated by the state, I propose this:-
A higher minimum wage for disabled people and special groups
The option to opt out of the minimum wage in order to undercut people competing for the same job
Satisfied? I thought so.
The text of the debate - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-06-17a.1010.0&m=40619
Wikipedia Minimum Wage - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage
Wikipedia National Minimum Wage Act 1998 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Minimum_Wage_Act_1998
Bruce Lawson - http://www.brucelawson.co.uk/2011/disabled-people-working-for-less-than-minimum-wage/
Devils Kitchen - http://www.devilskitchen.me.uk/2011/06/moron-of-week-edward-leigh-mp.htm
Dick Puddlecoat - http://dickpuddlecote.blogspot.com/2011/06/mascot-watch-13-that-speech.html
Jackart - http://brackenworld.blogspot.com/2011/06/thoughts-on-evidence-on-national.html
Old Holborn - http://bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/2011/06/minimum-wage-is-actually-165-enforced.html
Politics Student - http://www.politicsstudent.co.uk/2011/06/is-philip-davies-actually-wrong-on-his.html

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