With the final Labour Party conference before the General Election, kicking off yesterday, Labour’s key announcement to the conference so far is that it would look to raise the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour over the course of the next Parliament, should the party win the next election. This would be a rise from the minimum wage level of £6.50 an hour, which will apply from October. This could be worth £60 a week, or £3000 a year, for those people working in these low-paid jobs.
There are two key advantages to this policy. First, it appeals to the kind of working class voters who might be tempted towards Ukip at the next election unless Labour can show that it has their economic interests at heart. As a policy which could make a difference to the lives of up to 1.4 million people working in low-paid jobs, it is also likely to go down well with Labour’s support base more generally.
Secondly, it allows the party to say that it is making work pay for ordinary, hardworking people, rather than being the party of benefits. Answering criticisms that it would cost money for the public sector, which employs a lot of low-paid workers, Ed Miliband noted that at the moment the Government “is spending billions of pounds subsidising employers who are paying low wages… in benefits, tax credits and housing benefit”.
Predictably, the news has not gone down well with everyone, with the CBI claiming that it will put strain on businesses, and that it would be better to focus on how to develop people’s skills and help them to move up in their career.
With many expecting this policy to form the basis of Miliband’s keynote speech on Tuesday, the question now is what further policy announcements we should look forward to.