A University of Oxford study has recently shown that increased minimum wages improve the mental health of workers. With this research in mind, unions are using International Workers’ Memorial Day 2016 to call for a £10-an-hour minimum wage.
The link between wages and mental health
wage rises for low-paid workers reduce feelings of anxiety and depression partly, at least, because they are under less financial strain.
The research looked at the difference between workers who saw their wages rise in 1999 due to the introduction of the national minimum wage and other low-paid workers who did not see an increase in their wages at the same time.
According to the lead author of the paper, Dr Aaron Reeves:
This study proves that wage rises significantly improve the mental health of low-paid workers. This suggests that the new national living wage is likely to have a similar positive effect in the short-term for low-wage workers.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Professor David Stuckler, a co-author of the study, said:
Our study found that increasing wages for low-income workers can have as powerful an effect on mental health as prescribing antidepressants.
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) told The Canary that mental health is a particular concern at the moment:
We are raising the issue of mental health in the workplace as many of our members have direct experience of their workmates or themselves suffering mental health problems as a direct result of their working conditions.
The three main factors contributing to these problems, the union says, are:
- Low Pay. Poverty wages are a major source of depression and stress, which can in turn lead to other health problems.
- Insecure hours. BFAWU members complain about a lack of control over their lives. Because of changing working patterns, employees find themselves “unable to spend quality time with loved ones”. Zero-hours contracts, meanwhile, see workers compete for favour with managers in order to get more hours. This situation, the union insists, “can often lead to bullying and harassment”.
- Lack of control over the working environment. Because of the rigid, timed, and predetermined tasks that food workers undertake, there is a lack of opportunities for creativity and innovation. This can leave employees feeling “helpless and robotic”.
This is why the BFAWU is currently campaigning for an increased minimum wage of £10 an hour, an end to zero-hours contracts, and an end to discrimination against young people (who are often paid less for doing the same job as those who are older than them).
International Workers’ Memorial Day
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) sums up International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) – officially recognised by the British government – with the slogan:
remember the dead: fight for the living
On 28 April every year, unions organise events which remember people killed at their places of work. They also emphasise the importance of continuing the unionised fight for workers’ rights in order to stop such tragedies from happening again.
In 2016, the TUC explains, the IWMD theme is “Strong Laws – Strong enforcement – Strong Unions”, as there are “growing attacks on health and safety protection” throughout the world today, including in Britain. For example, it says:
Here in the UK the number of inspections has fallen dramatically in the past five years
It also insists:
Unionised workplaces are safer, yet the Government is trying to stop unions protecting the health and safety of their members… and [is] also trying to reduce our right to strike when things go wrong.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned that the Conservative government’s controversial Trade Union Bill may actually breach international law.
On Thursday 28 April, the BFAWU will have an event outside the Oxford Street McDonald’s in Manchester at 1.15pm. It is calling for talks with the company over its poor record on workers’ rights.
– Find out what is happening in your area on 28 April.
– Organise a minute’s silence for Workers’ Memorial Day in your workplace.
– Hit Twitter on 28 April and let the world know how IWMD has been commemorated where you live by using the hashtag #IWMD16.
– If you work in the food industry, find out more about the BFAWU here.
Featured image via CommonSpace.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?