From the early days of the Labour party and the Union movement its leaders faced a conflict. They said they wanted greater equality, but their Union supporters wanted higher pay for higher skills. Those who wanted to create, extend and defend differentials, higher pay for more skilled working, won the battle of ideas.
The Union movement became a means to defend craft and skill levels and to ensure that they gained extra pay for them. At times these were good, ensuring skill and quality in the work. At times this acted as a restraint on innovation and competition, preventing others from offering their labour without the qualification or Union membership to back their search for work.
Today the Labour movement lives with its contradictions. Labour does not wish to see the professional restrictions on legal or medical work pulled down, accepting the need for long training and up to date skills. In turn they accept the case for much higher pay for people who have these qualifications. They accept the need for higher pay for shop floor and senior management, and pay their own Union bosses well above the average of the workers they represent.
It is true the Labour and Union movement wishes to move lower pay up – as do many of us who are not part of their political movement. It is also true that in office, like any other government, Labour accepts they have to do this at an affordable pace for taxpayers. As lower pay moves up, they are also normally keen to increase higher pay as well, as the doctrine of the differential is engrained in their thinking.
It is wrong of Labour to claim they are the party of equality. They are more truly the party of differentials, the very opposite approach. They usually support more and more regulation of jobs, requiring more training and qualifications. This in turn restricts the supply of labour to these chosen occupations, and forces the differentials up compared to people in low skill jobs.