Gordon Brown used his speech at the TUC conference in Brighton this week to lecture workers once again on the need for pay restraint to ensure economic stability.
Yet the reality for most working class people is that their daily life is far from stable.
Figures released last month show that wages are rising at their slowest rate since 2002.
With income falling far behind the spiralling costs of housing, food, childcare and fuel, hundreds of thousands of people in Britain are facing a future of debt and insecurity.
One sign of this is figures released this week by the Citizens Advice Bureau. They show that the number of people seeking debt advice has rocketed in the last year, rising by 20 percent to a total of 1.7 million enquiries.
This is not just about credit card and consumer debt. People are struggling to pay for basics such as fuel and rent.
Enquiries about gas and electricity debts, for example, shot up by 33 percent last year.
Personal debt is at an all time high – rising by 10 percent in the last year to £1,355 billion.
Each household now pays an average of £3,700 interest on their debts every year.
This means thousands of families are trapped into huge interest payments with no prospects of paying off their debts.
As debt pushes repossessions and insolvencies to record levels, one group that is profiting from this misery is the banks.
The biggest five banks in Britain declared profits of £37 billion for the 2006-7 financial year. And while Brown is determined to hold down workers’ wages, directors are not showing any signs of pay “restraint”.
City bonuses are up 30 percent this year – hitting a combined total of £14 billion.
And across the top 100 companies, bosses’ pay averages 98 times higher than that of workers at the same company.
While thousands try to work out how to pay their bills this month, profits across British companies are growing at their fastest pace in almost 13 years.
This is not economic stability – it is the growing economic inequality of Britain under Brown.
- Directors paid 100 times more than their workers
- Richest 10% now owns more than half of Britain’s wealth
- Third of biggest firms pay no corporation tax
- Personal debt up 10%
- Repossessions up 30%
- Debt enquiries to Citizens Advice Bureau up 20%
- Pay rises for millions of workers frozen at 2%