Friday, June 17, 2011

MP: Disabled people should work for less than minimum wage.

Earlier today, a BBC news producer tweeted a story that provoked an instant twitter storm.

It read, "Tory MP Philip Davies says disabled people should offer to work below minimum wage so they get a job when competing with able-bodied people.". Paul Twinn followed up with information that this had been said in the House of Commons, that his statement applied to people with mental illnesses as well, and that he will provide a link to the statement on Hansard when it is available later.

Suggesting that disabled people should offer to work for less than the minimum wage is an outrageous proposition on many levels.

1) Firstly, disability is expensive. The cost of living is much higher for disabled people, and disabled people are more likely to live in poverty. Non-disabled people struggle to survive on the minimum wage, so disabled people living on less than that is a prescription for extreme poverty.

2) It creates a two-tier system in which disabled people are viewed as second-class citizens who are not worth paying the legal minimum wage to. We couldn't possibly have a lot to offer to an employer, we are automatically only worth employing if we can undercut the non-disabled competition.

3) Access to Work and various benefits which support disabled people to work, are all being cut by this government. This makes working for less money even less realistic.

4) Suggesting that people seeking employment undercut the minimum wage essentially makes the minimum wage meaningless. We fought hard for a national minimum wage. Before it was introduced I had a friend working in a sports shop for £1.50 an hour, and this was completely legal. His wages were pretty much tripled when the law was introduced. If employers can pay less than the minimum wage on the suggestion of the employee, then it makes a mockery of the whole thing.

5) Disabled people need MORE support to work, not less. To quote @HelenWayte"I just don't understand how someone can look at vulnerable/marginalized people and think 'lets make things harder for them'".

And this is the same Philip Davies who 'never understood' why blacking-up was offensive.

This isn't the best blog post I have ever written, but I am so full of rage that this is how little one of our parliamentarians values disabled people. I am too ill to be doing this right now, which of course is the point. It makes me a very easy target.