Years of spending cuts and wage freezes spell pain for workers
by Lamiat Sabin
ONLY GREECE has suffered more from austerity that Britain, trade unions charged yesterday as rising inflation and stagnant wages threaten another sharp fall in living standards.
Inflation at 2.3 per cent is higher than wage growth of 2.2 per cent — meaning that people’s pay is worth less in real terms, a nightmare proposition when millions already have to go cap in hand to foodbanks and skip meals to feed their kids.
“Only the people of Greece have suffered a bigger fall in living standards during these miserable austerity years,” stormed Len McCluskey, who’s standing for re-election as leader of Britain’s biggest union Unite.
Britain is set to go 15 years without a pay rise, with average wages only set to return to the 2007 level in 2022.
“For too many workers in this country, work simply does not pay,” said Mr McCluskey.
“Big business too must address the sort of economy and society it is helping to create. It has spent the austerity years hoarding billions in the banks or squandering on excessive boardroom pay.
“We need collective bargaining restored to secure a fair rate for the job in sectors like construction and hospitality.
“And we need action to bridge the wage gap between the shop floor and the boardroom.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said working families are worse off because of stagnant wages under the Tories.
“The government has also failed to close the employment gap faced by women, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, who are all less likely to be in work,” she said.
And TUC leader Frances O’Grady demanded “urgent action” on poverty pay and stagnant salaries by the government.
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam blasted the “unnecessary pay caps” of around 1 per cent that have slashed the real-terms pay of public-sector workers.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said their wages hadn’t gone up in “many years.
“Instead their pay keeps falling behind inflation, meaning nurses, care workers and town hall staff are suffering real financial hardship.”
Heading off Tory crowing about reduced unemployment — largely due to badly paid and insecure jobs — Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith said such figures only “mask the underlying weakness of the economy.
“Poverty is rising and growth in the Scottish economy is close to zero.”