17 February 2020 – Unfolding developments early in the first quarter of the year 2020 appear to point to gloomy times for fair pay for workers creating an undesired picture for the future of working conditions for working people; with far reaching negative implications for inclusive and sustainable development across several national divides of the world.
Key trade agreements like the NAFTA Act reviewed in the latter part of the year 2019 perhaps did well to set the stage for fair pay inclined exploitation as it is still riddled with labour and environmental standards safeguards that are not yet water-tight in this direction. This leaves multinational companies with the latitude to perpetuate and ‘deepen’ their practice of observably often ‘unfairly’ outsourcing jobs to nations, regions and strategic locations in general where they can exploit cheap labour and evade fair pay.
Pretty early in the year 2020, a nation-wide strike action that witnessed the massive participation of over 250 million working people across India ensued. Working people peacefully yet eloquently protested to air their resentment against the Modi government’s anti-worker policies. Such policies included the government’s action of arbitrarily setting aside the minimum wage arrived at after prolonged deliberations in the Indian Labour Conference. The government went on to announce the minimum wage as Rs 178 per day, which even stands less than the wage being currently distributed in as many as 31 different locations across the country.
Similarly, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has revealed a pattern of fair pay and wage inequality injustice and crisis between 2010 and 2019 across 15 EU member states. Across most of the EU member states, wages increased less than the rate of labour productivity thus reflecting a pattern of companies robbing workers typically constituting the middle class and below for the most part to pay the rich – shareholders and bosses. Hence the situation of low wage workers has worsened – in the event of the lack of an improved fair pay minimum wage review – and wage inequality has significantly increased.
In the UK, the existence of pay secrecy or ‘gagging’ clauses prevent workers from challenging unfair pay, discrimination and excessive top-to-bottom pay ratios. About a fifth (18%) of working people are made to understand that they are not allowed to discuss their pay with co-workers. In Zimbabwe, nineteen of the twenty-eight unionists who made a 2018 call for peaceful work-stoppage to protest escalating living costs, that call for a fair pay upward review, have been arrested and put on trial for flimsy charges leveled against them by their oppressive nation’s government. Eight of the twenty-eight arrestwd unionists are energy sector representatives who are facing criminal charges for protesting the non-payment of wages.
Every good student of development studies understands the key role real incomes play as one of the fundamental indicators of the level of development of a people and their country. If the national governments of countries adopting anti-fair pay policies truly want to get committed to the inclusive and sustainable development of their people and nation, a qualitatitive policy response to answer the fair pay real incomes question is the glaring way to go!
Olubankole Daniel Olulana
WORLDWATCH is a periodic column of Humanity Voice Watch dedicated to systematic data-based analysis of current policy issues and challenges that border on the sustainable welfare and development of all humanity and our planet.
Olubankole Daniel Olulana is an international development oriented governance, management and media professional. Among other things, he conducts research and advocacy on policy issues and challenges that revolve around governance and development. He can be contacted at email@example.com.