The British government is making a political gesture. Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt is due to announce this Monday, October 2, that the minimum wage will be raised from April 2024. It must thus reach at least 11 pounds sterling per hour (12.67 euros), compared to 10, £42 at present.
“Work must pay and we make sure that this is the case (…). This is the way the Conservative party improves the lives of workers,” the minister must argue, according to extracts from his speech released Sunday by the party.
According to the government, two million people will be affected by this revaluation.
A gesture from the government before the elections
This announcement is far from trivial. It comes at a time when polls show that the Conservative Party is lagging behind in the polls. However, the next legislative elections are expected by January 2025. To try to regain the favor of public opinion, the Conservatives have increased the number of announcements during the party’s annual congress which began on Sunday in Manchester.
“We promised (…) to increase the minimum wage (national living wage) to two thirds of the median wage to put an end to low wages in the country,” recalls Jeremy Hunt in his speech.
However, the government makes it clear that it wants to give with one hand and take away with the other. Jeremy Hunt must, in fact, also announce a reform of the social assistance system. Objective, to encourage unemployed people to return to the job market.
“At a time when companies are having difficulty finding workers, around 100,000 people leave the job market each year, living on social assistance,” he must explain, announcing a review of the sanctions regime.
“Those who are not even looking for a job do not deserve the same social assistance as those who are really trying to do the right thing,” he must insist.
A new attempt to respond to the strikes
Through this double discourse, the government wants to try to restart the economy, which has been plagued by strikes and major walkouts for more than a year. Taking galloping inflation as an argument, still at 6.7% year-on-year in August, many workers in different sectors such as health, transport and education are increasing the number of days of strikes.
“These strikes are part of a campaign that began over a year ago,” RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch told Sky News in July, adding that “we are in real trouble. People need to have decent salaries.”
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the British economy has even suffered from strikes in health and education. They contributed to the 0.5% contraction in its gross domestic product (GDP) in July. For its part, the employers’ organization CBI notes that “the loss of economic momentum in the third quarter which is now described by companies could keep the economy slow”.
This article is originally published on latribune.fr