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Be moral, pay your workers more, says CBI. Fat chance!

UNEQUAL PAYThere always must be trouble afoot when the CBI advises their employer membership to start paying more to their workers. Of course it’s all clothed in the warm language of morality, but of course if that had an ounce of appeal to the employing class, why didn’t they think of doing this 5 years ago when wages began their dizzy (and intended) fall which has now reached 9% since 2008?

No, there must be some other reason why the employing elite are now feeling a sudden pricking of conscience, and there certainly is. With business investment still badly depressed at 24% below its pre-crash level, exports still falling, and all the monetarist devices to boost the economy in full play but not working except the wrong ones (artificially stimulating the housing market and encouraging consumer borrowing already at 160% of GDP), there is nothing for it – take a deep breath – but to raise wages and thus also raise productivity which is still falling. So are employers going to do this in 2014? You must be joking.

Overseas demand remains weak, there is a hug pool of jobless workers still numbering nearly 2.5 million, and there are, amazingly, 3 million people who say they are under-employed and would like to work more hours. The employers’ dream scenario. After all the efforts made over the last 5 years to push down wages and casualise the workforce through zero hours contracts and other measures, it takes a degree of hypocrisy even for the CBI to appeal now to the better nature of their members, reverse engines, and cough up more.

To appeal to morality is a bit steep when the whole point about the system of deregulated market capitalism they swear by is that it’s amoral and constructed overwhelmingly to benefit themselves. If they cared a jot about morality, why don’t they cut their own pay, long-term incentive plans, pension pots, stock options, and fringe benefits to spare a few mites for their own workers paid 140 times less?

A market system may work reasonably morally if (i) there is enough moral awareness among corporate bosses to prevent the accumulation of overweening monopoly power, and (ii) the incentives are appropriately located to bring about a just and fair distribution of demand. Neither of these conditions are in place, and much more seriously never will be in place under a system of neo-liberal capitalism which is designed to have precisely the opposite effects. What all this pathetic episode really reveals is how utterly desperate the CBI – and the government – are now becoming.

One Comment

  1. treborc says:

    What can you say really labour speaks about a living wage, which is actually a readjusted Min wage, and the Tories who are not talking about wages at all.

    So the CBI comes in with OK we will pay more but when is the question and how much.

    Maybe the Politicians and CBI are worried about their own pay rises and think offering pennies may help stop riots.

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