As MPs debate benefit cuts today, Cambridge Labour Parliamentary spokesperson Daniel Zeichner is highlighting the failure of Microsoft to pay workers a living wage at its new CB1 offices near Cambridge station. He says that the best way forward is to boost wages, not cut the tax-credits that companies like Microsoft rely on to subsidise low-pay.
Before Christmas when Microsoft formally opened their new showpiece offices, Mr Zeichner urged them to set a lead by pledging to pay all workers at least £7.45 an hour, the amount that has been calculated by independent analysts as needed for the most basic standard of living. Mr Zeichner urged them to set a good example as one of the first employers into the new development. In their response, Microsoft refused to reveal pay rates and would merely confirm that they pay the national minimum wage, as required by law.
Mr Zeichner believes that the Government should be pressing companies like Microsoft to pay their share, rather than blaming hard-pressed low-paid workers:
“Microsoft are part of a corporate culture that works on the basis that provided they can get away with low pay, it is ok. Without the national minimum wage, doubtless they would pay lower still. They don’t seem to understand that this attitude is part of the bigger economic problem we face. In London, some more enlightened companies, under pressure from campaigners, have committed to paying the living wage. For these companies, the amounts involved are tiny. For low-paid workers, the amount makes all the difference. My guess is that in Cambridge, Microsoft could pay the living wage and it might cost them ten thousand pounds a year – for a multi-billion dollar global brand, it is loose change. Today, coalition MPs will vote to cut the standard of living of low-paid workers cleaning their offices – they should turn their attention to companies like Microsoft instead."