“The brothers would fight it..”

Apparently based on a report in the Daily Telegraph, quoting an un-named Labour Party source, which suggests that Gordon Brown might be tempted to raise the minimum wage on a variable basis within the UK, the BBC NI report focuses on the comments of Employment Minister Reg Empey, since, as they report, “A government spokesperson would not comment on the issue.” The Minister, referring to the suggestion, said

“We have difficulty in getting people to leave benefit and go to work, this would make matters worse,” he said. “I think for that reason we have got to remember that the people who are receiving the minimum wage tend to be those people who are doing very basic jobs and I honestly don’t think penalising them will improve our economic prosperity.”

Leaving aside the interpretation in the headline.. Of course, the Employment Minister has his own reasons to create a story.. given the mis-handling of his last statement. And “the brothers” have already exerted their influence on the previous Secretary of State when, as noted at the time, he had predicted that the Agriculture Wages Board “will cease to exist”[pdf file].. but, following pressure by “the brothers”.. it is evident that the Board is a body that is still in operation..

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  • patrique

    Reg is right. Doing basic jobs like paying out benefits as Civil Servants, although every October when the minimum wage is increased by 20p or so, many Civil Servants are actually below it.

  • DC

    Great call Gordon – minimum wage vs the dole and lavish proceeds from low-order criminality.

    Hurrah!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Regional variation on minimum wage, but not on corporation tax. Now that’s prudence all right.

  • Gordon Brown, the reversed Robin Hood….

  • Cruimh

    Dooh Nibor?

  • Boom Boom

  • protorious

    Interesting development…

    Clearly this is designed to appease the minimum wage workers in London who have been striking over this issuse consistantly for some time now.

    It may seem negative that Northern Ireland is going to have one of the lowest minimum wages in the UK but the upshot is that this could stimulate the growth of the industrial sector… lower wages means greater profit for the employers after all.

    Just trying to find the silver lining here.

  • Kevster

    Protorius, I don’t think there are enough minimum wage employees in the industrial sector for it to make a difference to those employers.

    Restaurants like a low minimum wage, so job growth in that area would be helped by a lower minimum wage.

  • Labourman

    Kite Flying.

  • mnob

    We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the industrialised world. Lowering the minimum wage therefore cant increase employment opportunities (unless it attracts large amounts of immigrants – but then who is going to come to the region with the lowest wages ?).

    Therefore all it is going to do is reduce the amount of money in circulation as the lowest paid workers get paid less. Profits are going to go to the multinationals and be reported as profits in London not Belfast. Therefore it looks liks NI gets poorer. How to solve it ? Why reduce the minimum wage some more.

  • Pete Baker

    Labourman has, imho, the correct take on this.

    I just don’t see it happening.

    And Reg taking it so seriously – given the source – is, in it’s own way, flying another kite.

  • “We have difficulty in getting people to leave benefit and go to work, this would make matters worse,” he said. “I think for that reason we have got to remember that the people who are receiving the minimum wage tend to be those people who are doing very basic jobs and I honestly don’t think penalizing them will improve our economic prosperity.”

    This statement above from Empey is a treat, giving workers a pay rise and attempting to lift them out of poverty is according to this shyster penalizing them, great let the arsehole draw the minimum wage himself after all is there any more a free loader than an MLA, they have drawn their wages for years with out doing a stroke of work.

    If employers cannot or will not pay a livable wage they should not be in business, as they are unable to make the figures add up, or are unfit to run a business due to their greed. It always amazes me that those on the right who are forever going on about benefit scroungers are quite happy for the tax payer to subsidize business via pension credit type top ups for employees, whilst the owners cream off profits that have been made on the backs of the tax payers.

    Someone should to tell this MLA creep we have heard it all before when the minimum wage was first introduced. On the matter of those who do ‘basic’ jobs as the creep describes them, i would bet my pension that most of us regard those who work on the check out counters, in the benefit offices, sweep the streets or empty the bins, pick the local produce grown by the farmers etc, as doing a dam site more important job than the greedy eye Empey, who seems not only quite happy to have some of the poorest people working active in the northern economy, but positivly encourages them remaining in poverty.

    Every time greedy eye raises his head between now and the next election he should have his calous statement thrown back in his ugly mug.

    I may not be a massive fan of Brown, but at least for the first time since 1979 he and his colleagues are trying to set a public political agenda that is based on common decency.

  • wild turkey

    As a trial balloon this call for regional variations in the min wage has all the elegance of the Hindenberg

    As in all serious social experiments a pilot study is necessary. Therefore introduce regional variations in the pay of MPs, local councilors and, um, regional assembly members in the affected regions.

    lets see how that works first

  • mnob

    mickhall – you did *read* the article didnt you ?

    You do realise Reg was speaking against *lowering* the minimum wage ?

  • Justin

    Can’t wait till Labour start contesting elections here!

  • mnob

    I also think its kite flying. Maybe (just maybe) he is considerning a London Weighting for the minimum wage, but this could be to :

    a) take the focus off lowering corporation tax

    and/or

    b) point out the can of worms that would be opened by it (regional variations in benefit as well as taxation)

  • Gareth

    Lowering the minimum wage doesn’t just mean that wage is lowered; it also increases wage inequality for the majority of those earning less than the maximum wage as wages above the new minimum decrease by as much as 10%.

    Brown doesn’t believe that the minimum wage does that much to lift people out of poverty (Campbell’s daries among other sources state that Brown was in favour of a lower minimum wage than was agreed by Cabinet), prefering when as chancellor to concentrate on working tax credits.

  • Reader

    mnob: You do realise Reg was speaking against *lowering* the minimum wage ?
    Maybe it was a troll? Is our mickhall really the sort of person to launch into a vicious tirade against a unionist politician on the basis of a careless misreading of Reg’s very brief and clear statement?

  • Whoops, As I meant to say in the post above, Mr Empey is one of the finest human beings who ever walked the earth, I know for a fact he spends every waking hour struggling to improve the lot of the poor. As to his work as an MLA it is Herculean, like his MLA colleagues he is battling for the good of all night and day, indeed a mere scribe like I is not fit to lick the great man’s boots.

    Will that do boys, just shows there is a raging bigot within us all just waiting to emerge when one least expects it 😉

  • inuit_g

    Lowering the minimum wage would be a crazy idea at a time when we’re trying to encourage more people into the workplace.

    A liveable wage that allows one to provide a dignified quality of life for one and one’s family is surely one of the basics of living in a democratic society?

    I would have hoped Brown would want to move in the opposite direction and raise the minimum wage across the UK.

    Its a bit rich of him to be so strong against variable tax rates for the regions, and yet come up with a plan like this!

    Anyways, I imagine that Labour Party bosses across Scotland, Wales and Northeast England would have been choking on their cornflakes this morning when they read it, and that this idea will have a deservedly short life.

    A quicker way to weaken Labour in its heartlands you couldn’t imagine!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    inuit_g: “A liveable wage that allows one to provide a dignified quality of life for one and one’s family is surely one of the basics of living in a democratic society? ”

    Comme ci, comme ca… most “living wage” campaigns wreak more economic havok than benefit, produce more smoke and heat than light.

    Part of the problem is that capital can vote with its feet — raise the wages in one region “too high” and capital will leave to sunnier shores. (Irony: ACORN, one of the loudest “living wage” proponent organizations in the US, pays its campaigners sub-minimum / piece-work wages… so much for leading by example).

    The second issue with these campaigns is that the usually don’t have a lot of “real world” economic analysis behind them, relying on all other factors to remain equal in the face of the change they want to make.

    For instance, in the real world, an arbitrary “living wage” hike would increase prices, as wage expense is part of the price of everything we buy. Likewise, higher skilled labor will want a concurrent wage increase when the deal comes through — what is the benefit of having spent the time to get the training and experience for a skilled trade or profession? Some industries where automation may have previously been an option discarded due to price will reconsider in light of the new minimum wage. It is not as simply as waving a bureaucratic wand and changing one aspect of the system and pretending there will not be any other changes.

    If you need an example, the City of Baltimore, Md, foisted a “living wage” on the Inner Harbor redevelopment. The result was a “dead zone,” as businesses, unable or unwilling to pay the arbitrarily mandated wage, moved to just outside the region and set up shop there. Likewise, the phone-banks in NI would likely start looking abroad in the event of such a wage hike.

  • willis

    DC

    I assume you live in the US. We brought in a minimum wage 10 years ago. Tories/Business predicted cataclysm. Labour still in power. Tories finally accepted that minimum wage works.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Willis: “I assume you live in the US. We brought in a minimum wage 10 years ago. Tories/Business predicted cataclysm. Labour still in power. Tories finally accepted that minimum wage works. ”

    There is a not unsubtle difference between a “minimum” wage and a “living” wage, willis. The terms are not interchangable, at least at present.

    If I recall the US numbers, the minimum wage is 7 and change USD (some states mandate a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum), whilst most of the “living” wage groups cite about $13-15, with some areas (NYC, for instance) being notably higher and others regions being a bit lower. In short, these are not semantic differences.

    Setting a floor for wages (i.e. a “minimum” wage) and arbitrarily doubling wages, give or take, to create a “living” wage are hardly the same thing and would hardly have the same economic impact on society at large.

    Oh, and for the record, the United States had a minimum wage as far back as 1938.

  • Wilson

    Excellent, it is good to see the UUP talking about real issues that affect “all of us” like their slogan says.

    I hope we hear more of this from the UUP in future and much less sour grapes and broken glass about power-sharing.

    I think its only a few people like David McNarry and David Burnside who are opposed to power sharing and maybe some anti-deal hardliners in the UUP Press Office who seem to be trying to move our Party to an anti-Agreement stance, most people I know in the party just want to get on with things and I hope Reg hears that message and talks more about real day-to-day issues like this and stops attacking the DUP for doing exactly what we did in 1998.

    We should be congratulating the DUP on finally seeing the light and not attacking them!

    If it is only hardliners in the UUP Press Office and a few types like Burnside who are too hardline and right-wing and keep putting out awful statements like the “Klingon” speech, maybe we need people who are more forward-looking and knowledgeable of the bread-and-butter issues and able to raise issues like this where the voters can see our Party standing up for them and protecting their rights?

  • Reader

    inuit_g: A liveable wage that allows one to provide a dignified quality of life for one and one’s family is surely one of the basics of living in a democratic society?
    A minimum wage that lifts people out of the benefits trap would be helpful. A higher basic rate tax threshold, instead of the stupid tax-credits system, would also be helpful. I can’t help thinking that Brown would like to make as many people as possible into clients of the state instead of letting them have a bit of dignity and independence.

  • moyle rover

    While this is undoubtedly kite flying by brown, a shot across the bows of local politicians banging on about varying corporation tax, it is a ham fisted one. The one politician truly smiling at this will be alex salmond. Labour are already unpopular in scotland, if brown forces through a lower minimum wage against the wishes of the scottish parliament then alex will be busy drawing up his independence referendum.
    I cannot believe brown would be so stupid as to follow through on this it would be electoral suicide for him.

  • Liz

    US Federal Min wage was raised to an astronomical 5.85 per hour from 5.15 per hour just yesterday, we will see Mr. Baltimore if walmart goes out of business under that horrifying, oppressive to industry minimum standard we have set. Or we will see if in fact Jobs all over the lower quadrant of wages become more well paying, leading to an economic boost. Surely you are right, and all businesses will just close. I mean really how can an employer be expected to pay a an increase in substandard hourly fee for his employees? The employees a business has are the businesses RIGHT! And why should I, a consumer, be expected to pay for goods what they in fact cost????? Lets abolish the minimum wage altogether !

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Liz: “US Federal Min wage was raised to an astronomical 5.85 per hour from 5.15 per hour just yesterday, we will see Mr. Baltimore if walmart goes out of business under that horrifying, oppressive to industry minimum standard we have set. ”

    1) As previously noted, many states have a higher wage than the Federal;

    2) How many people do you imagine actually make the Federal minimum? (Hint: Even the burger grillers in the fast food joints make higher than the state minimum, let alone the Federal).

    3) Lazy thinking there, Liz — what does Walmart have to do with an example abut how the economic impact of the legislative regionalization of wages and the arbitrary establishment of a “living” wage? More smoke than light in your argument, thus far.

    Liz: “Or we will see if in fact Jobs all over the lower quadrant of wages become more well paying, leading to an economic boost. Surely you are right, and all businesses will just close.”

    Rather than knee-jerk ranting, mayhap had you read my post, you might realize that I did not discuss “business simply closing.” Some will adjust, some will move, some will examine alternate to human labor — all I’m saying is that it is a complex system and that your pie-in-the-sky-all-will-be-peachy theory is unduly optimistic.

    For example, where I am, they have installed self check-out aisles in many of the big box stores. Were a living wage mandated, do you imagine there would be more or less of these installed? Plain vanilla economic theory — when you increase the cost of an input, you increase the attractiveness of alternatives.

    Liz: “The employees a business has are the businesses RIGHT! And why should I, a consumer, be expected to pay for goods what they in fact cost????? Lets abolish the minimum wage altogether ! ”

    No, the employees are a cost of the business. Take the Balitmore Inner Harbor example — the wage proposal was limited to the redevelopment area. Did businesses up and quit? Maybe a few, but most simply moved out of the redevelopment zone, where the state / federal minimum wage was the law, as opposed to the artificially elevated and highly localized “living” wage. They moved just beyond the borders of the area, still service the area, but are not saddled with the wages mandated for the area. Likewise, given the choice of the “normal” zone for wages and the elevated zone, where do you think a new business will start up? Ergo, many businesses left the Inner Harbor redevelopment and went un-replaced.

  • uup future

    “I think its only a few people like David McNarry and David Burnside who are opposed to power sharing and maybe some anti-deal hardliners in the UUP Press Office who seem to be trying to move our Party to an anti-Agreement stance”

    Hello Wilson – I would agree with much of your post but I think you are rather off-base about our press office, I would know some of them personally and they certainly are not “anti-deal hardliners” as you seem to think – quite the opposite in fact, as some of them have been around since David Trimble’s time and my impression is that they have been trying to keep us on course as much as possible – don’t assume every “UUP” press statement comes out goes through our press office because it simply isn’t true.

    I can only speak for my own experience but I dont think you can fault the likes of Alex Benjamin or indeed McGimpsey, Christopher or Peter Munce for our problems the problem is our rightwingers just go round the Party Leader and our press office and say their own thing regardless.

    The problem is with renegades such as McNarry and Burnside who won’t accept the wishes of the leader and the party and who are intent on pursuing their own agenda.

    I dont think the problem is with our press office or our staff who are certainly not anti-agreement types working against us – the problem is that we need to crack down on idiots like McNarry and Burnside who are going against the will of the Party – and that is essentially a leadership challenge which Reg seems either unable or unwilling to address.