An interesting debate is going on at Alwyn Ap Huw famous blog Miserable old Fart concerning Plaid Cymru's policy of a "living wage". This of course is a concept that is not rooted in Socialist doctrine. The Catholic Church has the "Just Wage" as part of its social theology. It first made an appearance in Pope Leo XIII "Rerum Novarum" which says quite clearly.
- "If a worker receives a wage sufficiently large to enable him to provide comfortably for himself, his wife and his children, he will, if prudent, gladly strive to practice thrift; and the result will be, as nature itself seems to counsel, that after expenditures are deducted there will remain something over and above through which he can come into the possession of a little wealth. We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property." (#65)
- "Wealthy owners of the means of production and employers must never forget that both divine and human law forbid them to squeeze the poor and wretched for the sake of gain or to profit from the helplessness of others." (#17)
- "As regards protection of this world’s good, the first task is to save the wretched workers from the brutality of those who make use of human beings as mere instruments for the unrestrained acquisition of wealth." (#43)
- "Care must be taken, therefore, not to lengthen the working day beyond a man’s capacity. How much time there must be for rest depends upon the type of work, the circumstances of time and place and, particularly, the health of the workers." (#43)
This quite clearly indicates that businesses have a divine duty to pay their workers a wage that is just and adequate.
This is expanded by Pope Pius XI encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931) which defends the right of private property, however it must be used for the common good.
""...(T)he wealthy class violates (the common good) no less, when, as if free from care on account of its wealth, it thinks it the right order of things for it to get everything and the worker nothing, than does the...working class when, angered deeply at outraged justice and too ready to assert wrongly the one right it is conscious of, it demands for itself everything as if produced by its own hands, and attacks and seeks to abolish, therefore, all property and returns or incomes, of whatever kind they are or whatever the function they perform in human society, that have not been obtained by labor, and for no other reason save that they are of such a nature." (#57)
In the debate on MOF the issue of Tesco's low pay comes up.
I started to work for them in 2002, and I remmeber quite clearly the section manager telling me how much better Tesco paid compared to ASDA (4.85 an hour then). This spiel must have been part of his 2 day management training. when I told him that I made 15 Bucks an hour working at a "Unionised" Safeway store in the States he asked me how much that was in Pounds I told him then it was about 9 quid an hour. His jaw dropped. this was because of the union (UFCW) who negotiated with the grocery stores. Also it is worth noticing when Tesco opened their stores on the West Coast they excluded this union, I wonder why?
Its unfortunate that USDAW is such a weak union that is unable to represent its membership.