For Queen, Country and less than the minimum wage

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Whistleblower, Oct 7, 2006.

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  1. Good to see the Telegraph at least is keeping the pressure up.......

    link below:

    For Queen, country and less than the minimum wage
    (Filed: 07/10/2006)

    Ministry of Defence figures on the pay of front line forces' personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan just don't add up, says Alison Steed

    Thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen, risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, could get a pay rise after the Government was embarrassed into reviewing pay and conditions.

    The Daily Telegraph revealed earlier this week that members of the Armed Forces are being paid less than the national minimum wage, which rose for other employees to £5.35 an hour this week.

    Underpaid and over there: British soldiers in Basra

    Yet squaddies overseas are being paid less than £3 an hour as their basic salary, even when certain additional "bonuses" are taken into account.

    The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is exempt from paying forces personnel the minimum wage, putting our soldiers, sailors and airmen in the same league as prisoners, one of the few other groups denied this right.

    However, the MoD claimed this week that a review of "remuneration" has been going on for "some while", although it was unable to confirm when the review started. It will be completed "within weeks", said a spokesman.

    He added: "The entire Armed Forces remuneration package is being reviewed to make sure it is appropriate for the future. So it is going to take into account the need to recruit, motivate and retain staff."

    A private is paid £15,166 a year, but this figure includes an additional payment equal to 13 per cent of their "base" salary called an "x-factor". This "bonus", amounting to £1,745 of their annual salary, is designed to compensate for conditions specific to the Armed Forces, such as being mobilised at short notice. Taking this off the annual salary gives a squaddie a "base" salary of just £13,421.

    If soldiers were working 12-hour days in a combat zone, this would mean their "base" pay would be £3.07 an hour, according to calculations by Mike Warburton, a leading accountant at Grant Thornton. But they are more likely to be working 16-hour days at least, which takes the figure down to just £2.30 an hour.

    Given that the fighting in some areas of Iraq is constant, even more experienced personnel would not be paid the minimum wage if they are considered to be working 24 hours a day.

    Mr Warburton said: "These people in the front line have to work whatever is required. The Taliban do not stop shooting overnight, or at weekends."

    An additional payment of £6.02 a day, known as a Longer Separation Allowance, is also paid to those in a war zone, although there is a qualifying period for this.

    The MoD was unable to confirm what this was when asked.

    Even if this additional payment is taken into account, Mr Warburton calculated that to be paid the minimum wage, privates in a war zone would have to be working just 62 hours a week – about nine hours a day. A 16-hour day equates to 112 hours a week.

    The MoD spokesman said simplistic comparisons between a private's pay and the minimum wage "can be misleading".

    He added: "A soldier is paid an annual wage which is not dependent upon their working hours, or on whether or not they deploy on operations. In making comparisons it is therefore important to look at their working pattern over the full year upon which their salary is based."

    The spokesman said operational tours are normally six months long, and followed by 28 days' leave in addition to the normal leave allowance.

    He added: "Based on a working year that includes an operational tour of six months, a junior private's salary still equates to more than the minimum wage for the number of hours he will have worked during the year."

    However, Mr Warburton said he did "not understand this argument" as "the minimum wage is not worked out on an annual basis". It sets the minimum hourly wage.

    He added that forces personnel based overseas also have to pay UK tax and National Insurance, no matter where they are or for how long.

    An employee of, say, BP would not have to pay either if he worked overseas on a contract for a full tax year.

    Mr Warburton added: "If you are a member of the Armed Forces, serving in Iraq, being paid below the minimum wage and having bullets fired at you seven days a week, you also have the privilege of paying income tax and National Insurance on those earnings. This seems disgracefully unfair."

    The MoD said its pay review was also looking into whether troops overseas should be paying tax in the UK, but added that it is not clear-cut.

    He said: "They are going to be looking [at] whether to introduce operational pay, and if it is deemed appropriate they will question HM Revenue & Customs again about the fact that pay is taxable wherever they are deployed.

    "There is no expectation they will change their position, and it is possible the change would not be beneficial for personnel, as they would be taxed in their host country."

    David Laws, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for work and pensions, said it would be "totally unacceptable" for members of the Armed Forces to be earning below the minimum wage. It would also "be in direct breach of ministerial undertakings when the legislation was passed".

    He added: "There should be a full investigation into this issue to establish how many of the members of the Armed Forces are receiving less than the national minimum wage. Any shortfall should be resolved as soon as possible."
  2. One of the reasons I left the Army in 1975 after 10 years service was the deplorable pay throughout the ranks, epitomised by more than 30% of all married soldiers being in receipt of, I think it was called, Supplementary Benefit.

    So I am all in favour of the Telegraph’s campaign to improve HM Forces’ pay and conditions.

    However I note it has been suggested that those serving in combat zones should be exempt from paying income tax.

    I believe this is ill conceived and divisive.

    It will discriminate against those who, from outside the theatre, provide the support without which the front line troops will not be able to survive let alone function - military logistics start from depots in the UK and Germany.

    It will discriminate against those not deployed to a combat zone, yet all members of the Forces are liable for that, and to quote Milton “They also serve who only stand and wait”.

    The Armed Forces are deployed according to Government policy - they have no choice - so if an irresponsible Minister, such as Mr Reid, implies the deployment is little more than a “walk in the park” the Inland Revenue will immediately decline in advance any tax breaks and then sit back and wait for the Chiefs of Staff to present their case.

    But by then it will be too late, the troops will be in action.

    Treasury and Inland Revenue apparatchiks will nit-pick as to the exact date the area became a combat zone, seek a qualifying period as long as possible and probably require a certain number of body bags.

    They will also seek to define the combat zone to as small an area as possible. So will the RAF based in Bahrain or a naval vessel stationed in the Gulf and Indian Ocean, in support of Iraq and Afghanistan, be inside or outside the theatre of operations?

    Who will define what constitutes a combat zone? It is $1000 to a hayseed that the Treasury and the Inland Revenue will fight tooth and nail to make the definition so tight as to exclude anything other than a full scale invasion of the UK.

    Meanwhile Tommy Atkins is in hand to hand combat.

    What will be the position concerning our Special Forces? Will the Chiefs of Staff have to divulge sensitive information on covert operations to the Treasury and Inland Revenue neither of which has any need to know of them?

    It will, as the Americans have found, lead to military tourism as people having marginal involvement in the action, visit the combat zone in order to qualify for a tax break, and I would not put it past our politicians voting themselves danger money when visiting troops in combat zones.

    So, no income tax exemption. HM Forces should overall be better paid. Twice what they currently receive would be about right, especially in the lower ranks.

    If we cannot afford the insurance of having the Forces then we really should get out of the kitchen.
  3. Further to this it would be interesting to know what proportion of members of HM Forces are receiving state benefits.

    If any of them are, then we have the bizarre situation that the welfare and benefits agencies are funding the Defence Budget.
  4. Welcome to Britain, serve your country and the country will be ashamed of your uniform.
  6. Balleh

    You have put forward an extremely persuasive argument against a pay rise via income tax benefits and I don't disagree with any of the points you make.

    However, given the fact that resources are finite, it is surely prudent to target those resources to ensure those most deserving benefit from them.

    I don't claim, unfortunately, to have the answer but I do feel that your suggestion to give all forces a 100% pay rise is somewhat optimistic.
  7. I agree.
  8. BiscuitsAB

    BiscuitsAB LE Moderator

    Funny old world! Dogs have more rights in this country than the Armed Forces.
  9. Aim high and you can come down.

    Aim low and you don't get what you need because the other party - the Treasury - will assume this is your opening gambit and you will accept something less.

    As for targeting resources to those most deserving, the point is how do you define them? All members of HM Forces are liable to get into a fire fight.

    There was a report recently of an officer visiting a platoon location in Afghanistan to sort out some pay issues and whilst there spent several hours and more than a few rounds helping to defend the place.

    I can just imagine the apparatchiks in the Treasury and Inland Revenue quibbling about his status.

    "Well, he's not part of the teeth arms so why the hell was he there in the first place and anyway please let us know the dates and times of his arrival and departure and how many enemy he killed or wounded".

  10. Unfortunately under Blair's government the British army has the role now of clearning up most of the world's crap, with the least amount of funding, and hugest amount of criticism and scrutiny. It makes sense that minimum wage should be a feature in there, after all the poor sods out doing the job don't even have decent kit etc!

    And Blair's election song was "Things Can Only Get Better?"

    Can't see them getting any worse for the army.

    Me thinks there will be a turn about in voter apathy if a strong opposition is born........???
  11. Balleh

    As I said previously, I dont disagree with your assertions. Neither do I claim to have all the answers.

    Is it possible to tie it in, perhaps, to those in receipt of the OWP? Is it possible that qualification could be decided by an independant body? It would certainly need to be a daily rate with no qualifying period and also be tri-service.

    There are now too many non-deployable soldiers doing excellent work, but arguably, not as deserving as others to reward all serving forces equally.

    It is a sad fact that there is not enough money to go round. I too had a soldier working with me who was in receipt of family tax credits (what a farce). I'm afraid, until the revolution, what money there is has to be better spent
  12. totaly agree, when HMG can fork out 18k for a new general in post to get carpets and curtains for his new house (on top of disturbance allowance), well over what we would expect to receive for moving MQ. apparently this is common place for starred officers, even though it is against all the rules!! budget managers find a way of bending without breaking them!! Tos*ers. If we are to get a decent pay rise, the senior officers should take what they get (100K+) and forget about screwing the system.
  13. The issue of not paying tax is a non starter. There are strict tax exempt laws which a 6 month tour do not meet. Therefor all the ex pats who stay out the country not paying tax would be up in arms.

    The one issue I have difficulty with is, you join the Army knowing the terms and conditions of employement including rates of pay so why moan when you are asked to perform the task you are trained and employed to undertake. I dont think its unreasonable to ask a soldier to go to war. Thats your job.
  14. I totally get the point that a soldiers job is to go to war, but would we expect a surgeon to operate with a tin opener? Would we expect a barrister to act on our behalf for £50 even if we are inncocent and would retention and attraction be of a much higher standing if the money was more reasonably pitched for a competitive employment market?

    There are receptionists earning more than young men risking their lives for this country. The point to be is not about knowing the job that you signed up for it's about respecting and valuing a breed of very commited and special people.
  15. a surgeon /tin opener isnt what Im getting at. Thats a soldier/SA80 argument. totally different

    You are employed by the MOD to do a certain job. You have terms of employment ie wages that you sign and agree to. Why is it you are demanding more for doing that job. The fire brigade dont ask for more money if they attend more than the average fires. War is emotive by its nature but its your job and what you are paid to do. If you do a 6 month tour you get pre deployment leave, R&R, POTL and your 6 weeks annual leave. Im not sure you can complain about that.