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‘Wage restraint? Absolutely not. It’s time for profit restraint’

Unions condemn government's handling of the cost-of-living crisis as inflation rises to highest level since 1982

UNIONS demanded inflation-breaking pay rises and “profit restraint” from the bosses yesterday as households were hit by yet more record price rises.

The retail price index, which is used to determine train ticket prices and to which some index-linked bonds are pegged, surged 11.7 per cent while the consumer price inflation rose from 9 per cent in April to 9.1 per cent in May, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

This is the highest level of inflation since March 1982.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I know that people are worried about the rising cost of living, which is why we have taken targeted action to help families, getting £1,200 to the eight million most vulnerable households.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters it would be “reckless” to give across-the-board pay rises in line with inflation to teachers, nurses, and others.

This follows Tory ministers lining up this week to demand pay restraint from workers.

But unions and politicians united to condemn the government over its failures, with Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, saying: “it’s not hard-pressed workers who are driving inflation, it’s whole swathes of corporate Britain who have lined their pockets.

“Runaway profits are driving the inflation that is threatening a national pay cut, and yet the vast majority of politicians remain silent.

“While the governor of the Bank of England and the Prime Minister want workers to think it’s irresponsible to demand that their wages keep pace with prices, they won’t lift a finger to do anything about the ridiculous wealth being amassed by the rich and powerful.”

Ms Graham warned that corporate profiteering was “out of control.”

She said: “CEOs are hiking prices while shareholders rub their hands and workers struggle to make ends meet.

 “Wage restraint? Absolutely not. It’s time for profit restraint.”

Unison assistant general secretary Jon Richards said: “Under-pressure health, care, school and council services desperately need staff to be given a pay boost that matches runaway prices.”

Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “A pay rise that goes significantly above inflation is crucial to the recruitment and retention of skilled nursing staff.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We are at growing risk of a recession that will devastate families and businesses.”

And RMT president Alex Gordon tweeted that the figures indicated why workers saw the need to strike, adding: “HSBC bosses scooped £596,000 each in bonuses last year on top of average £479,000 salaries.

“Barclays bonus pool hit £1.9 billion.”

Opposition MPs also blasted the government over the skyrocketing cost of living.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “We need more than sticking plasters to get us back on course. We need a stronger, and more secure economy. 

SNP Treasury spokesperson Alison Thewliss said: “Time and again the SNP has urged the Tories to take real action, but instead, they choose to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

“This has to end.”

At Prime Ministers’ Questions, Labour’s Kate Osborne slammed PM Boris Johnson, saying: “Rail workers are on strike, Royal Mail workers, NHS workers, teachers and even barristers are on the verge of taking industrial action.

“All workers are struggling to cope with the worst cost-of-living crisis in history.

“Ministers are planning to boost city bosses pay whilst demanding wage restraint for everyone else.

“So, can the Prime Minister tell me, when is he going to stop meaningless sound bites and instead start supporting working people across our country?”

Mr Johnson replied: “If she wants to support the working people of this country, can I suggest she gets off the picket line.”

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