Letter: Workers too afraid to join trade unions

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Sir: The point made in your recent editorial ("Fickle friends at Labour's cocktail party," 5 September) regarding the minimum wage as protection for "the taxpayer's pocket" as well as for the low-paid worker is an important one.

Surprisingly, those who currently argue in its favour have not emphasised the fact that, in the absence of a minimum wage, the taxpayer is in effect subsidising the unscrupulous employer.

The employer who uses the state benefit system to avoid paying a fair wage is not a new phenomenon. The Poor Law Report published in 1834 noted that parish relief not only relieved the unemployed but made up low wages to a level judged to be sufficient for maintenance.

In rural areas some farmers, anxious to reduce costs and aware that wages would be made up to subsistence level out of the rates, reduced wages and threw the cost of maintaining their labourers on to the parish.


St Leonards on Sea,

East Sussex