The Tories were gloating last week after figures appeared to suggest that workers are enjoying an above-inflation rise in wages.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that after four years of falling, average wages rose by 1.7 percent to creep above inflation which dropped to 1.6 percent.
Tory chancellor George Osborne tweeted that the drop in inflation is “good news for families and further evidence that our long-term economic plan is working.”
And David Cameron, who is on holiday in Lanzarote, welcomed falling inflation because it means “more financial security for hard-working families.”
But health workers are among those who have rubbished the claims that the cost of living crisis is at an end.
“It’s utter nonsense,” Gareth Drinkwater, a health records clerk at Bournemouth Hospital told Socialist Worker
“Millions of workers in the public sector have not received an above inflation pay rise.”
Average pay is up by 1.7 percent. But when bonuses are taken out it’s up by just 1.4 percent—a real terms cut.
And millions of public sector workers have had their wage increases capped at 1 percent.
After four years of collapsing living standards, it will take more than a few months of growth to put an end to the crisis.
And the figures actually show that while pay has increased, it has not returned to previous levels.
Incomes are still well below 2010 levels, with people an average of £1,600 a year worse off.
Health workers in the Unison union voted last week at their national conference to ballot for strikes over pay (see below).
This comes after Tory health minister Jeremy Hunt refused to pay a promised rise to all nurses earlier this month.
Sam is a health worker at Whipps Cross Hospital in Waltham Forest, east London.
She told Socialist Worker, “Delegates were close to tears as they spoke about how they were struggling to make ends meet.
“People spoke about having to take second jobs just to get by.”
Some trainee nurses have been forced to take second jobs at McDonald’s to survive.
And not content with attacking workers’ wages Hunt has also denounced nurses as not “compassionate” enough.
Ministers have announced a review into nurse training saying they “aim to bring back compassion”. Sam described it as “another insult”.
For all of the Tory spin, years of falling wages have left people on the breadline.
Gareth said, “There’s a real mood of people being hacked off with all that’s going on.
“This is a government that is hellbent on attacking us, and only strikes can beat it.”
Ballots ‘can unify workers’
Half a million health workers are set to ballot for pay strikes.
Some 450,000 health workers in the Unison union unanimously voted for the ballot last week, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt refused a pay rise.
The Unite union has said it will consult its 100,000 NHS members over strikes. Workers are building for a day of action called by Unison on 5 June.
Nursing assistant Andy told Socialist Worker, “The ballots can unify workers across unions.”
Nurses, porters, paramedics, cleaners, cooks, therapists and healthcare assistants are part of the fight over pay.