Campaigners in Hebden Bridge have launched a ‘Fair Wage’ campaign to try to increase the wages of workers under twenty-two in the town.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The national minimum wage, introduced by the government in 1999, along with family tax credits were designed to lift families out of poverty, but campaigners now want it to go further by applying the full adult rate of £5.52 an hour to all ages. The minimum wage for young people can be as low as £3.40 an hour.

Calder Ward Labour Party co-ordinator Councillor Janet Oosthuysen said, “Many businesses in the valley rely on young people and the best employers we’ve spoken to realise that treating their staff well is the right thing to do.

“We need to recognise good practice where we find it, so over the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out the 'Hebden Bridge Fair Wage Employer 2008' badge for employers who pay a fair wage to young people. We hope this will encourage other employers who don’t yet, to pay the full adult rate”

The logo will be appearing on shop windows and doors around Hebden Bridge in the next few weeks and is part of what is being described as a 'name and praise' strategy.

“One young woman told us she worked in two pubs in Hebden Bridge and was paid only £3.40 an hour – minimum wage for 16-17 year olds” said Janet.  “This carried on after her 18th birthday – when she should have had an increase of £1.15 an hour. In an average week she was getting £25 less even though she was doing exactly the same job.  

“However, we also heard good stories of businesses paying all their staff equally, with no discrimination against young people.  Lucy Gallod-McCormick, for example, told us that her employer, Country Stores Café in St Georges Square pay her £5.52 even though she is only 17 and we also know that Klog and Spirals have similar policies.” 

The campaign to make Hebden Bridge a Fair Wages town began with a leafleting session in St Georges Square on Saturday 26th January and campaigners described the public response as “encouraging”. They are also organising a meeting for young people on this on Wednesday 6th February at 6pm in the Trades Club on Holme Street to talk about their experience and get involved in developing this campaign.  The meeting will include union leaders and a representative from Thompsons solicitors to give advice on rights at work.

Local business leaders Chris Price of Klog and Helen Parnell of Spirals have already pledged their support and the Labour Party will be talking to other local businesses and the Business Association to ask them to support our campaign.  “We hope to get all businesses signed up as Fair Wage Employers in 2008” said Janet.