Open letter - Government 'blurring distinction' between Minimum and Living Wage - Jenny Jones

18 January 2016

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb has called for the government to clear up misunderstanding between its higher National Minimum Wage for the over 25s, and the National Living Wage called for by the Living Wage Foundation and Green Party of England and Wales, among others.

The Baroness, the Party's representative in the House of Lords, made the call in a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP, reproduced below.

 

Rt Hon Sajid Javid, MP

Secretary of State

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

1 Victoria Street

London SW1H 0ET

Promotion of the ‘national living wage’

I am writing to ask you to reconsider recent decisions in respect of promotion of the so-called national living wage (NLW) – or higher national minimum wage (NMW) rate for those aged 25 and over, from April – and in particular what appears to me to be a deliberate attempt to conflate the NLW/NMW+ with the longstanding and increasingly successful Living Wage campaign.

The UK suffers from a severe and deep-seated problem of low pay, so the Government’s decision to increase the statutory NMW for those aged 25 and over to £7.20 from April this year – with a target of £9.00 by 2020 – is very welcome. However, that NLW/NMW+ is clearly not a living wage. The NLW/NMW+ is based on median earnings, while the voluntary Living Wage rates (UK and London) promoted by the Living Wage Foundation are calculated according to the actual cost of living – which is of course what determines whether someone is living in poverty.

Accordingly, along with many of those who have devoted much effort to the issue of tackling low pay, and in particular to promoting adoption by employers of the Living Wage, I was somewhat surprised by the launch late last year of a new governmental website, www.livingwage.gov.uk

Not only is this site’s URL remarkably similar to that of the Living Wage Foundation’s own website – www.livingwage.org.uk – but it would appear your Department (or the Cabinet Office) has paid to ensure optimisation in Google searches, so that the gov.uk site appears ahead of the org.uk site.

The causes of low pay and poverty are complex, and that requires a broad package of policy solutions. Both the statutory NLW/NMW+ and the voluntary Living Wage have important roles to play, but they are very different beasts and it does the Government no credit to try and blur the distinction, seemingly for nothing more than political gain. I know that you are a strong supporter of the voluntary Living Wage, and hope very much that, on reflection, you will see fit to revise your promotional plans so as to maintain the distinction.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

 

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb






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