Socialist Worker

Seize this chance for a united fight over pay

• One in four people face fuel poverty • Unions call for joint action on pay

Issue No. 2118

Chancellor Alistair Darling claims that the purpose of his government is to create “fairness”. His definition seems a long way from that understood by most people.

What is fair about the boss of Centrica pocketing £4.8m this year – an annual increase of almost £1 million – when this week it was revealed that a quarter of the population will be in fuel poverty by the end of next year, and when Help the Aged warns that 25,000 pensioners may perish from the cold this winter?

As food prices rocket and more and more people cut back on staples such as bread, butter and eggs, what is fair about choosing between food and heat?

Since 2003 the profits of the biggest energy suppliers have risen by 538 percent. They are now making £95 a second – but can expect to pay no extra tax under New Labour’s “fair-minded regime”.

For each of the last five years the poorest 20 percent of people in this country have seen their incomes fall.

In contrast, the top 20 percent have seen their incomes grow, with the very rich – the top five percent – gaining the most. The rest of us, the majority, have gained little or nothing.

In contrast to the soaring salaries of the rich, Gordon Brown’s government is united in telling us that accepting year upon year of cuts in our pay is essential for the economy.

Millions of people know that this is not fairness, but favouritism for the wealthy. They are demanding a change to the government’s policies.

This week the Trades Union Congress voted to back coordinated action to defend our living standards with a national protest scheduled for central London this autumn.

Union leaders representing hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil service workers have announced that they will ballot their members for strike action.

We want to close the gap between the rich and poor by making the wealthy pay up – and we demand wages that can maintain our standard of living at the very least.

Workers taking joint strike action represents the best chance we have to assert our own definition of “fairness”.

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Tue 9 Sep 2008, 18:55 BST
Issue No. 2118
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