Socialist Worker

Workers thousands of pounds worse off than a decade ago—time for a pay fight

Issue No. 2635

Traffic wardens in Camden, central London, are fighting for better pay

Traffic wardens in Camden, central London, are fighting for better pay (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Wages are still worth a third less in some parts of Britain than a decade ago, research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has found.

Research by the union federation shows that the average worker has lost £11,800 in real earnings—adjusted to take price rises into account—since 2008.

Britain is one of only of two advanced economies—the other Italy—where real wages are still lower than a decade ago.

The biggest losses have been in areas including the London borough of Redbridge, Epsom and Waverley in Surrey, Selby in North Yorkshire and Anglesey in north Wales.

Workers have suffered real wage losses ranging from just under £5,000 in the north east of England to more than £20,000 in London.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said, “The government has failed to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis. As a result, millions of families will be worse off this Christmas than a decade ago.

“While pay packets have recovered in most leading economies, wage growth in the UK is stuck in the slow lane.

The TUC—Managing Workers’ Anger
The TUC—Managing Workers’ Anger
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“Workers are in the middle of the longest pay squeeze in 200 years, with real wages expected only to get back to pre-crisis level in 2024. 

“Ministers need to wake up and get wages rising faster. This means cranking up the pressure on businesses to pay staff more, especially at a time when many companies are sitting on large profits.”

The TUC is right to highlight the effects of years of the Tories’ public sector pay freezes and of profit-harvesting firms bearing down on pay.

But this grim record of attacks on workers’ living standards raises the question of what our side has been doing. Too often it has felt like a one-sided class war has been going on without nearly enough resistance organised by the union leaders.

Instead they have frequently argued for acceptance of below-inflation pay deals that have contributed to the picture the TUC now describes.

It’s time for a serious battle to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour and beyond and to fight any settlement that fails to win back the amounts stolen during the last decade.

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