LEFT HAND VIEW, a political blog by Malcolm Tipper

ABOUT PAY July 7th 2019

Three topics were generally considered unsuitable for friendly discussion, Sex, Politics and Religion! I can remember that pay also was also a topic people were reluctant to talk about!

Today every conceivable aspect of sex is discussed, televised and written about. Religion seems to divide more than it reconciles, and politics, it seems, has only had one topic for the last three years and the less we talk about that the better.

It is pay that has become more of a discussion topic recently. In particular, the disparity, not only between the sexes, but also between employee and manager (especially between Chief Executive Officers (CEO), and the shop floor, office or manual worker). It’s not only in the private sector where large differences occur.

The Teignmouth Post of June14th 2019, reports that two former employees of Teignbridge District Council – a husband and wife team – who left as part of a management reshuffle, went with a “golden handshake” of almost half a million pounds. This followed a former CEO of Teignbridge District Council, whose salary was £140,000. When she left, her redundancy deal was a worth £264,000.

In the private sector, shareholders at Annual General Meetings (AGM) are flexing their muscles with regard to CEO’s pay, and some CEO’s are reacting first. For example the CEO of Ladbrokes has taken a £150,000 pay cut. I wonder what the odds of that happening were? Don’t chip in to help him though, as his remuneration for 2018/19 was a staggering £19.1m! Morrison’s boss waived a £600k bonus but his annual pay is still £4.6m, the same as the CEO of Tesco!

Sainsbury’s, whose profits dropped 42% , still thought it fair to pay their CEO (“We’re in the money” Mike Coupe) a £251,000 pay increase – taking his overall annual remuneration up to £3.9m. Over the past decade the average pay of a FTSE Chief Executive has risen four times as fast as that of their employees. For those earning £4m a year, this is to 135 times the average UK salary of £29,600.

A recent House of Commons Select Committee on Business, chaired by Labour MP Rachel Reeves, produced a recent report. This found executives still received pay packages that were often “patently unjustified”, despite a promise by Theresa May to tackle corporate excess. I wonder if Boris as Prime Minister will act on his remark “F*** business”. Perhaps most disappointing of all is the pay received by the CEO’s of Utilities for basic services that the public cannot do without. The CEO of Centrica (owns British Gas), received a pay increase of 44% in 2018 making a total pay package of £2.4m. During the same year, bills were increased twice and thousands of job cuts were announced. The Head of Thames Water was sacked – allegedly due to his failure to reduce leakage – but is still in line to receive a £3.75m bonus for fixing leaks.

The Labour Party, when in power, is going to take action. Earnings in the lowest earning working households have barely risen since the mid 1990’s against the staggering rise of the CEO’s as referred to above. Labour is committed to rolling out maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector, and in companies bidding for public contracts. Labour will also legislate to reduce pay inequality, by introducing an Excessive Pay Levy, on companies with staff on very high pay. In addition, of course, to bringing back into Public ownership our Water, Electricity and Gas. Wouldn’t that be fairer?

IMMIGRATION June 22nd 2019

June 22nd was Windrush Day, to commemorate the arrival of the Empire Windrush and its 492 passengers from the Caribbean in June 1948. Further arrivals and their children and grandchildren could be excused for not celebrating too much.

Thousands of these migrants, who arrived legally in the 1950’s and 60’s, were recently categorized as illegal immigrants by the Home Office. This fiasco led to a £570m compensation scheme being set up, to aid those wrongly classified, who lost jobs and homes and were frightened to leave the country. Although it is not known if any payments have been made, the complex 45-page compensation document is certainly a deterrent.

Before the 20th century began, migration to Britain, was very loosely controlled.If any of you, like me, have undertaken one of those DNA tests, you might be surprised to discover the substantial contribution of non-UK origins to your DNA. My own result shows me as only 10% from Great Britain. Probably long-standing residents of Teignmouth and Shaldon might discover Canadian or Icelandic DNA.

Immigration control, in its modern sense, can be traced back to 1905, and the attempt to restrict, in particular, destitute Russian and Polish migrants. During the first world war, restrictions on entry were made on the grounds of national security. This led to the 1919 Immigration Act, which was renewed annually until 1971. Various crises, both domestic, such as mass unemployment in the 1920’s and 30’s, and international, such as the upheaval of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Nazism, led to concerns about the numbers entering Britain.

The second world war, and then membership of the European Union, again led to restrictions and changes to the law, about who could enter Britain legally. The 1971 Immigration Act came into force in January 1973 as Britain became a member of the EU. This effectively allowed free movement of all EU nationals, but placed restrictions on people from British colonies or former colonies.

Currently we are still seeing the so called “hostile environment”, introduced by the Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary. “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants”.  The policy worked to deport first, appeal later, and went hand in hand with the infamous “Go Home” vans. The nasty party was in its element.

Strict control of immigration unites many Labour and Conservative voters. Labour voters concerned about the impact on jobs and Conservative voters with the cost to the economy. The current Labour party policy would see an end to arbitrary figures for net migration, and the excessively complex quotas for particular types of workers. It would, instead, base immigration on what the economy needs. Should it go further and allow the free movement of Labour?

Most research concludes that migrants make little or no impact on average employment, or on unemployment in the UK. Migrants contribute more in taxes than they take in benefits. The real impact is felt amongst low skill, low education workers, who are the most vulnerable. The question here is – shouldn’t we raise higher labour standards for all, rather than restricting migration? The attempted control of unauthorised migrants only leads to fear and exploitation.

Windrush day was an opportunity to thank those migrants who travelled to Britain and helped to rebuild the country after the war. They continue to play a vital role in our economy. The day coincided with the anniversary of the killing of Labour M.P. Jo Cox, who in her maiden speech to Parliament said “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.