Low pay and industrial relations: the case of contract cleaning


  • Peter Brosnan
  • Frank Wilson




A key feature of the present government's economic strategy has been to directly, and indirectly, undermine pay and conditions of employment. Unemployment, although an inevitable by-product of the government's industrial and monetary-fiscal policies, has been blamed on the wage fixing system and on the levels of pay. In tum, the government and employer interests have been able to use the growth of unemployment as a legitimization of their attacks on the pay fixing system and the level of pay. Real wages, both gross and net, are now lower on average than when the present government was first elected in 1984 and the thrust of current government policy is to lower them further. This decline in real gross wages has been far from evenly shared. While the lowest quintile of wage earners experienced a fall in real income of 3.5 percent between September 1984 and the end of 1987, the top quintile experienced an increase of 1.1 percent. Real net wages for the lowest quintile fell by 0.4 percent while those of the top quintile rose 4.5 percent (Brosnan and Wilkinson, 1989, Table 2).


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Author Biographies

Peter Brosnan,

Frank Wilson,