wages

Can Things Only Get Better?

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The decision by Labour MPs to deny party members the chance to choose their new leader means Gordon Brown will take office at the end of June. Judith Orr looks at the problems he will face and the state of the Labour left, while Michael Bradley examines the response from the unions.

Gordon Brown's time has finally come. On 24 June he will take on the post he has coveted for over a decade. Brown quickly received some good press. The Mirror's headline was "A Leader Born to Serve Us", and there was a three point boost in the polls. The fact that there is a bit of a "Brown bounce" is not surprising. It could hardly be otherwise - he is replacing one of Britain's most unpopular prime ministers. There is a palpable relief that Tony Blair is finally going, and for some a desperate hope that "things can only get better".

Good Things Don't Come to Those Who Wait - in Chinatown

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"We don't get paid wages here," said a waiter at Chinatown's Furama Restaurant. "We only have tips of around £200 a week. The service charge goes to the employer. We don't get a penny."

This testimony is not an anomaly. Catering and hotel employers are making their own rules and there is no legal basis from which to challenge them.

The practices of one catering company, Green Events Ltd, provide a useful example. Prior to January waiters were paid £6.25 per hour plus 10 percent service charge. Under the new system, however, they are paid just;£4.25 per hour. Their employer uses the service charge to meet the minimum wage.

Brown, bosses and workers after May Day

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These may be Tony Blair's last days, but Gordon Brown has made it clear that Blairism - war, privatisation and cuts - will remain. Charlie Kimber looks at the issues which are bringing workers into confrontation with the government and how trade unions are organising

At its best 1 May, May Day, is about the unity of socialist politics and the power of the working class. A hundred years ago the Second International grouping of socialist parties called on all socialists and trade unionists in every country to "demonstrate energetically" each 1 May "for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." The greatest May Day moments have reflected the merging of immediate class demands and a vision of a better world free of capitalism and imperialism.

Mind the (Gender) Gap

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Shocking new figures have put equal pay back on the agenda.

A batch of recent statistics on the role of women in the labour market highlight the fact that widespread discrimination has not gone away - even though women now make up virtually 50 percent of the workforce in Britain. The figures on pay discrimination are particularly scandalous given that it is now more than 30 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force and - despite all the ballyhoo about 'Blair's babes' - there has been hardly any shift in the gender pay gap since New Labour came to power.

Mind the (Imaginary) Gap

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Gordon Brown revives a Tory idea about regional pay

One of New Labour's more baffling preoccupations over the past few months has been its apparent fixation with the idea of regional pay. Exactly where the impetus for this is coming from seems a bit of a mystery, since none of the major unions have been campaigning in this direction and there hasn't really been any significant business lobby for regional pay variations either.

The Forgotten People

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Review of 'Nickel and Dimed', Barbara Ehrenreich, Granta £8.99

Anti-war activists are frequently accused of anti-American bias, of blaming all Americans for their government's actions. This is very far from the truth. Anti-capitalists have long been aware of the extent to which the US, like the rest of the world, is divided between a tiny minority who benefit from global capitalism and the overwhelming mass of people who produce the wealth but, in the race for the bottom, are denied even a living wage.

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