Anneliese Dodds, Labour's top-placed candidate for the European elections in Oxford, Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East and Sally Copley, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, were today celebrating the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the first time in Britain, fifteen years ago today.
However, they warned that many employers are currently getting away with not paying the NMW because of a lack of enforcement action by the Coalition Government.
Although in theory the Coalition Government has said it will 'name and shame' employers which do not pay the NMW, so far only five employers have been named (of whom none were from Oxfordshire) and of those, three had underpaid less than £1000 to only one worker. No action has been taken against those larger firms which have been exploiting workers by failing to pay them the NMW. In addition, the Coalition Government has lobbied in Brussels against measures which would make it illegal for employers to pay foreign agency staff less, and give them worse terms and conditions, than UK workers. Finally, the Coalition Government has also abolished the Agricultural Wages Board which regulated wages and working conditions in agriculture.
The NMW is currently £6.31 for adults, £5.03 for 18-20 year olds and £3.72 for under 18s.
Anneliese said: "It's great to be celebrating the National Minimum Wage's 15th birthday today. My first job was paid £2 an hour - and I'm pleased that those days are gone. Although the Conservative Party argued against the National Minimum Wage, saying it would cost jobs, in practice it has lifted thousands of low-paid people out of poverty over the last decade and a half. But the National Minimum Wage will only work if it is properly enforced- and we've seen enforcement reduced significantly under this government".
Sally Copley said: "Labour is exploring ways of strengthening the National Minimum Wage, such as extending the role and powers of the Low Pay Commission. Labour is also campaigning and working with employers across the UK to encourage them to pay their employes a living wage."
Last year Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour government would introduce 'make work pay' contracts to incentivise firms to pay the living wage
Andrew Smith MP added: "Here in Oxford the Labour-run City Council already pay their workers a living wage and I support the efforts of campaign groups, such as the Oxford Living Wage Campaign, who are working closely with major employers to get them to pay their staff a fairer wage."