Flexible Labour

HARRIET HARMAN, Labour’s employment secretary informed a Fabian Society business forum in London last week that a Labour government would not agree to new European Union employment regulations if they were “incompatible with Britain’s flexible labour market.”

She announced that Labour was about to “refine” its policy for a national minimum wage, which amounted to the introduction of a “lower pay figure” for young workers to encourage recruitment.

This will undoubtedly please the business community, which can now sleep at night safe in the knowledge that it can continue to super-exploit young workers under a Labour government.

It is impossible to disagree with the verdict of the Financial Times: “Labour’s new position over EU social legislation indicates a movement towards the view of Mr Michael Portillo” (June 22).

Sir Richard Greenbury, chairman of Marks and Spencer and also of the committee which is investigating ‘excessive’ top pay increases, would also testify to the extreme ‘flexibility’ of the labour market. He received a 17% pay rise last year - apparently to compensate for a fall in pay during 1994 - which was on top of his ‘basic’ salary of £637,000. Naturally, he is also sitting on share options which have a potential profit of £1.2 million, handy if he falls upon hard times. His Greenbury committee report, due in two weeks’ time, will no doubt contain scathing self-criticism.

Such gross inequality in wages is inherent in the capitalism and cannot be reformed - inequality will actually increase as it careers from crisis to crisis. The system itself must be destroyed. Socialism will not see the immediate equalisation of wages, but wages will progressively be ‘equalised’, until the wage system itself is finally abolished.

Danny Hammill