UK: Ed Miliband pledges tough laws on wages

Labour would increase fine on firms who fail to pay minimum wage from £5,000 to £50,000 – Published on The Guardian, by Toby Helm, Andrew Rawnsley and Daniel Boffey, Sept 21, 2013.

Ed Miliband has announced plans for a tenfold increase in fines – from £5,000 to £50,000 – for any company that fails to pay the minimum wage as part of a radical manifesto to end exploitation and drive up the skills of millions of British workers.

In an interview with the Observer as the Labour conference opens in Brighton, he also pledges a new immigration law to ensure that medium and large companies can only take on a skilled worker from outside the EU if they pay to train a British worker in return. 

On Saturday, the party unveiled several ideas on wages from its policy review, saying it was looking at whether the minimum wage could be boosted in specific high-earning sectors such as finance, construction and computing, where companies might be able to afford a higher minimum rate.

Miliband, under intense pressure to show a clearer vision for government after a summer of poor poll ratings and sniping about his leadership, says he has remained “totally unfazed” by the criticisms, as he has worked on a slew of policy announcements for Brighton to flesh out his “One Nation” idea.

With preparations overshadowed by a new book by Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor, Damian McBride, about plots, smear campaigns and political assassinations, Miliband says McBride will never work for Labour while he is leader and that anyone found briefing against a colleague will be sacked: “It is totally unacceptable.”

The conference will focus on how to tackle the “cost of living crisis” and why real wages for the vast majority have fallen behind as the rich have piled up more wealth. “What is the biggest issue facing British politics today? That for generations, when the economy grew, most families got better off,” he says. “That is what we saw in the 80s, that’s what I saw growing up … Somewhere along the way that link between the growing wealth of the country and family finances has been broken. You have got to prevent all the gains being scooped up by those at the top.”

Some 287,000 workers are currently paid less than the minimum wage (now £6.19 for people aged 21 and over but rising to £6.31 next month), including an estimated 200,000 or more in the care sector alone. Yet there have only been two attempted prosecutions since the wage was introduced in 1999. Miliband describes as “ridiculous” the fact that fines for fly-tipping can be as high as £50,000 while that for non-payment of the minimum wage is £5,000. “You should have a maximum fine of £50,000 for not paying the minimum wage because that is proportionate.” Labour would give local authorities new powers to investigate non-payment and enforce the law … //

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Labour conference and Ed Miliband’s interview on the Andrew Marr show, on The Guardian / Politics live blog, by Andrew Sparrow, September 22, 2013;

After Glasgow: What did the left get out of the Lib Dem conference? on Left Foot Forward, by Gareth Epps, Sept 20, 2013;

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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