Letters: Minimum wage is a step away from slave labour

These letters appear in the 3rd January edition of the Independent

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Our grandson has the misfortune to live in an area of high unemployment. Since he left school eight years ago, a few casual jobs only have come his way.

He is grateful to be accommodated in a dilapidated flat, and we have subsidised his meagre income. He is desperate to be independent, so imagine his and our joy when he was offered a job which lasted more than one month. The job was manual shift work at unsocial hours, 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.

Our joy was short-lived. Our grandson was marginally worse off on the minimum wage than he was on the dole. Deducting from his net wage his regular commitments, he was left with £9 per week for clothes, toiletries, sundries and unforeseen expenses. We continue to subsidise him from our pensions. 

The minimum wage is a travesty; it is clearly inadequate and should equate to a statutory living wage. Employers paying the minimum wage are, in effect, only a step away from employing slave labour.

A company kept afloat by paying the minimum wage is either making an unjustifiable profit or is commercially unviable. It should not expect parents, guardians or grandparents to augment the company’s wage bill.

R J Rickard, Edinburgh

 

As the Government will not outlaw zero-hours contracts, another way of addressing the problem of employers who do not want to give employees full working rights would be to change the minimum wage law, so that zero-hours contracts must be paid at a higher rate. In every other part of capitalism, taking a risk is rewarded. It should be in the workplace, too. Fewer rights, higher pay.

Reverend Richard Haggis, Oxford

 

I appreciate that elephant conservation is a valuable cause, but I was disappointed to see two internships included in your Christmas Charity Auction. Although this is raising money for a good cause, I question the ethics of making desirable opportunities available only to those who can afford to pay for them. 

Unpaid internships make certain career paths – such as TV and video production in this case – virtually inaccessible for all but the most privileged young people. Auctioning two such opportunities creates a further barrier. These two internships will inevitably go to young people lucky enough to have rich parents to pay for that essential first credit on their CV.

Moreover, the industries in question miss out on hiring from a large pool of talented young people who cannot afford to work for free – let alone pay for an internship.

Hayley Gullen, London SE5

 

Non-partisan and working for peace

Sadly, in the troubled history of the Middle East conflict, it is not unusual for those who speak about human rights violations to be branded as opponents (“Clare Short at risk of arrest in Israel”, 2 January).

As you list my own engagement with the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR), can I make clear that as Labour’s European Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, I meet and engage with many international representatives – and this has included accepting roles in the past with the pro-Israeli Labour Friends of Israel.

I am not aware that CEPR has in any way breached its own mission statement that it is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to peace and respect for international law.

Others who have accepted roles as trustees include a German Liberal Democrat MEP from the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, a Green MP who is former chair of the Swiss Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and a British peer who is both a Privy Councillor and former British Labour health minister.

More than 100 parliamentarians have accepted invitations to serve on CEPR’s delegations, including Lord (David) Steel, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Baroness (Margaret) Jay, Conservative MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone, former chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party and currently Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Lorely Burt MP, Lord (Hugh) Dykes, and current Labour shadow treasury, business and justice ministers.

Of course, I will contact the Israeli government in response to the reported statement, but I stand with all those renowned parliamentarians in seeking to promote genuine dialogue and understanding towards finally achieving a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament, Cambridge

 

So much potential good goes up in smoke

If the world decided not to have any firework parties on New Year’s Eve 2014 and contributed what they would have spent to a global fund to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease, I wonder how much we would collect?

We could congratulate ourselves for not letting it all go up in bangs, lights, smoke and, in the case of London, flavoured smells! Alternatively, we could have the displays and parties, but donate the equivalent amount of spending to the fund. I was disgusted by the scenes on TV of various cities and their displays, while at the same time there was reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis, and adverts from charities asking for £2 a month to feed or provide medicines for deprived children.

John Ongom, London E11

 

Why would anyone want an honour?

Pat Rattigan (letter, 1 January) seems upset about not receiving an honour. But I can’t really understand why anyone would want one.

I have been a great admirer of Taoism, which teaches a philosophy of meekness, which shuns honours. Lao Tzu said in the Tao Te Ching: “He who shows himself is not conspicuous; he who considers himself right is not illustrious; he who brags will have no merit; he who boasts will not endure.”

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

 

An unforgettable conductor

I was disappointed that you were unable to find a single line of space to mention the conductor Sir Colin Davis among the list of obituaries of notable people for 2013 (Review of the Year, 28 December). He was every bit as much of a musical icon as Beecham, Sargent and Sir Henry Wood, for example, in both the concert hall and opera house throughout his 60 years or so of conducting. He must surely have contributed far more to British music over the years than some other musicians (whom I’ve never heard of), such as JJ Cale, Ray Manzarek and Stan Tracey, who did get a mention, and was still actively conducting in the early part of the year before his unfortunate death in April.

Ian Berresford, Poynton, Cheshire

Great horror

The rest of the British media didn’t appear to mention it at all, but why did you consign the study from the University of South Wales which forecasts global temperatures rising by as much as 5C by 2100 and 8C by 2200 to two column inches on page 16 (“Temperatures set to rise 5C by end of the century”,  1 January)? 

And these figures take no account of the biggest story of 2013, about vast quantities of methane erupting from the Arctic Ocean which may be the beginnings of a runaway process which will render this planet uninhabitable  to most species, including our own. In a year that will look back a century to the horrors of the First World War, shouldn’t equal priority be given to persuading humanity to look ahead at avoiding the immeasurably greater horror of runaway global warming which will very possibly bring human history to a tragic, rapid and suicidal close?

Aidan Harrison, Rothbury, Northumberland

 

They used to have a word for it

The news about the plight of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which got stuck in the ice, makes me feel that as the passengers have been rescued and were apparently carousing and ice dancing before rescuers got to them, The Independent can rescue a word that lexicographers have, for some reason, been trying to kill off for decades,

Mallemaroking comes from a Dutch phrase for the drunken behaviour of icebound whaling crews with nothing to do until the ice loosens or rescue comes.

Given that the Oxford English Dictionary records the last proper use of this word as being in 1913, I hope you can print this letter and so rescue this marvellous word for another century at least.

David Walsh , Skelton, Cleveland

 

Something missing on the new coin

It’s a pity that they couldn’t fit in on the new £2 coin after “Your country needs you” the words “to die”.

Mike Brayshaw, Worthing, West Sussex

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