When Britain’s then-Chancellor George Osborne announced the new compulsory Living Wage during his 2015 budget speech, many political pundits applauded him. Eighteen years after passing the UK’s National Minimum Wage Act 1998, tens of thousands of care workers are still being paid below the national minimum wage despite new regulations designed to ensure they are paid fairly (Merrill, 2016). In a damning government report, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct Mike Ashley was found to have broken the law by failing to pay staff the minimum wage (Goodley, 2016). Indeed, 70 per cent of households in Britain saw their incomes fall or remain stagnant in the decade after the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 (Elliott, 2016). Yet CEOs’ pay has been steadily rising, being, in 2016, 183 times the average UK employee, up from 160 times just six years before. This has prompted widespread reaction, including the Institute of Directors urging BP shareholders to think twice before supporting a decision to award £14 million to CEO Bob Dudley in a year when the oil company suffered its worst ever losses (Macalister, 2016). The debates around low pay and income inequality alongside exorbitant CEO executive pay are a reminder that HRM operates in an arena of continuous tension that is inherent in the generation of added value, and of society’s moral values related to employment and disquiet about growing inequality.
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