Callum Adams from the GMB Young Members Network writes about their campaign for a fair deal for young workers.
Imagine going to work. Imagine that you do the exact same amount of work as your colleagues but when your pay comes through you’ve received a completely different level of compensation for your labour. Now imagine you take this diminished wage home. You have to pay your rent; you have to pay your bills; you have to buy food and essentials. Your costs aren’t any less than those of your colleagues but for some reason you have been given less to meet them with. For many people across the UK under the age of 25 this thought exercise isn’t imagination. This is their reality.
In April this year the Government introduced their “National Living Wage” of £7.20 an hour. The inverted commas are important here because it is nothing of the sort. It falls short of the living wage calculated by the Living Wage Foundation which currently sits at £8.45 per hour and does not even come close to the £10 per hour living wage advocated by many trade unions including my own union, the GMB. More importantly however, all it ultimately does is add another tier to what was already a four tier wage system, further perpetuating the ridiculous notion that your age somehow relates to the value of your labour and your level of productivity.
The GMB Young Members’ Network is leading the way in campaigning for a real living wage for all workers, regardless of age, and for living wage week we have put our demands right on the Tories’ front doorstep. On Tuesday GMB members from across the country went to Parliament to meet with Jack Dromey, shadow minister for Labour and Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, both of whom stand firmly with GMB Young Members and their Wages Not Based on Ages campaign. Jack stated that “It cannot be right for hard working young people to be denied a wage that they can live on.” and that “The time has come for pay justice for young people.”
GMB Young Members delivered the testimony of Rebecca who is 20 years old and states: “Because of my age the Government says I can live on £5.55 an hour whilst my colleague earns £7.20 an hour for doing exactly the same job. Rent and living expenses are exactly the same, so why aren’t the wages? Working in retail this unequal pay is common and earning less stops me from getting on in life. I can’t afford to study part time to get a better job, have driving lessons or even think about owning a car. I’m frustrated at the fact I am expected to live on so little, whereas if I was older I would automatically be paid more.”
Rebecca is just one of nearly 3.5 million people that could be affected by the government’s decision to pay hard working young people less than their older colleagues. This, along with zero and low hour contracts, lack of job security and increasing housing costs, sees that young people are trapped in a perfect storm that threatens to see them stranded within in-work poverty where it is a struggle to survive let alone live. They lack the means to socialise with friends or spend time with and care for their families; and the prospect of one day owning their own home seems like little more than a dream.
GMB Young Members are urging the Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, to take action and include workers aged between 18 and 24 in the implementation of the National Living Wage. Earlier in the year we launched a Parliamentary Petition that encourages the government to discuss this issue and put right the discrimination faced by those under the age of 25. If you haven’t already signed it you can do so here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131920
It is completely unacceptable that young adult workers under 25 can be paid up to 23 percent less than those over 25 who do the same work, with 18 - 21 year olds entitled to only £5.55 per hour whilst those aged 21 - 24 may receive only £6.95. Even former Conservative skills minister, Nick Boles admitted earlier in the year that no official statistics exist to support the idea that those under the age of 25 are less productive and yet the Government still uses this argument to justify their actions.
Young people must stand together against a government that clearly has no interest in the lives of young people in this country. GMB Young Members are making their stand and we urge you to stand with us. We deserve a wage not based on age. We deserve a wage that allows us to live rather than merely survive. We deserve a wage that will pay for our futures and not one that imprisons us in a perpetual present or in-work poverty. GMB has long called for a real living wage of £10 an hour and you should too. We do more than enough to earn it.
Don’t forget to sign our petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131920
GMB Young Members Network
If you would like to find out more about how GMB is fighting for a fair deal for young workers or how to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter at @GMBYoungMembers. If you would like to join the GMB today, you can join online here: https://www.gmb.org.uk/join/join-online