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Thursday 18th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

SHADOW chancellor John McDonnell lambasted the Tories’ “total failure” to improve living standards yesterday as new figures showed the biggest fall in wages for three years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that weekly wages went down by 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

Mr McDonnell said: “These figures bring home the Tories’ total failure to improve the living standards of working families.

“Real wages are lower than they were in 2010 and, after seven years of the Tories, they are now falling again.

He warned that the choice at the general election was clear: “Either a Tory Party presiding over a crisis in living standards or a Labour government that will build a Britain for the many, not the few.”

General union GMB said the figures were “proof positive that austerity has failed working people.”

General secretary Tim Roache said: “A decline in earnings is about less money in people’s pockets. It’s less money for rent, to pay the bills, to feed the kids.

“An economic recovery where working people are earning less isn’t an economic recovery at all.”

The labour market statistics also showed that unemployment hit a 42-year low at 1.54 million, a rate of 4.6 per cent, in the first quarter.

However, the figures also revealed that the claimant count rose by almost 20,000 to 792,800 and critics warned that the employment statistics mask a surge in workers on zero-hours contracts and in insecure employment.

According to the ONS, self-employment has skyrocketed to almost five million, a stunning 15 per cent of all those in work.

Job vacancies stand at a record high of 777,000 after increasing by 22,000 in the three months to March.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady warned that the decline in real wages risked “tipping working people into another living standards crisis.”

And she issued a challenge ahead of the general election: “The big question for every party is — what’s your plan to get Britain’s wages rising again?”

Ms O’Grady said the minimum wage must be increased to £10 per hour and whoever forms the next government must have a plan “to stop the unfair pay cuts that are making hard-working midwives, firefighters and nurses thousands of pounds worse off.”

Labour has pledged to increase the minimum wage to “at least” £10 an hour by 2020.