Earlier I read about some comments made by Conservative MP Philip Davies that were so ridiculous that to start with I didn’t believe they were real. I was wrong. He was being accurately quoted:
“Given some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk…. My view is that for some people, the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help.”
I’m aware that we live in a society where discrimination is not unusual but I was astonished that an MP could really suggest that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage because they were not as productive as people without disabilities.
Jody McIntyre wrote an article in the Independent in response, pointing out that, “A strong test of any progressive society is how its most vulnerable people are valued for their worth, rather than pitied for their faults.” He went on that it’s “the attitude that Davies conveys in his comments that allows not only employers, but many sections of the public, to continue to look down on disabled people as lesser or inferior members of society.”
Philip Davies is suggesting that rather than work towards a level playing field where employers and the wider public value diversity, the government should legitimise discrimination and exploitation with legislation to ensure that disabled people can be used as a source of cheap labour.