As this summer’s European Elections approach, we may expect Conservative politicians to heed the likes of the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker and fight for the ‘right of workers to work more than 48 hours a week’.
Booker reckons we should all be outraged that limiting working hours will cost business £11.9bn each year. But in truth we should be outraged at the Tories’ desire to worsen working conditions for Britain’s hardest workers and set back the fight to eradicate poverty.
The great majority of people working long hours are not highflying entrepreneurs (who will do as they please in any case): the great majority of people working long hours do so because they are in rubbish jobs where the hourly rate is low and overtime is their only hope of a living wage.
The labour market is different to others in that the amount of labour supplied not price sensitive – the same number of people require jobs whether demand is high or low – but choking off the supply of labour will cause wages to rise. And that’s a good thing.
That £11.9bn Booker mentions is destined for the pockets of Britain’s hardest workers.
Together with the minimum wage, which Tories also opposed, limiting working hours is government’s most effective tool in the fight on poverty. It also gives many people a chance to enjoy a more fulfilling work-life balance.
Conservatives are also fighting to scrap guaranteed holiday, reduce parental leave and much more.
The government may struggle to eradicate child poverty, but progress has been made: ‘In 1998/99, there were 3.4 million children (26%) living in poverty. By 2006/07 (the latest figures available) this had fallen by 600,000 children to 2.9 million children.’ To let the Conservatives throw that away would be a tragedy.
Let’s not rush to the bottom; cheap labour for business means poor pay and long hours for Britain’s hardest workers… and let David Cameron know how you feel.