By Charlie Kimber
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Cost of living rises again while bankers toast bumper bonuses

Super wealthy bankers are getting ready to trouser the biggest bonuses since the financial crash as the cost of living rises
Issue 2793
A group of Chep UK strikers and supporters stand on the picket line to demand a pay rise while inflation increases. Some have banners and an RMT union flag

There needs to be more working class struggle to combat the cost of living crisis. Chep UK are on all-out strike.  (Picture: Manchester SWP)

The cost of living has risen again which means more people will be pushed into hardship and poverty. 

Official statistics on Wednesday showed the RPI rate of inflation increased to 7.8 percent. The bosses’ favoured measure that excludes housing costs, the CPI rate, also rose to 5.5 percent.

The message is clear. Workers have to win pay rises of 8 percent or more just to stay still. Anything less is a pay cut. And pensioners and people on benefits, who will see a “rise” of just 3.1 percent from April, will be hit by a 5 percent cut in real terms.  

Soaring prices are just one aspect of a broader crisis. In April working class people will also be hit by a 54 percent rise in gas and electricity bills. The average bill will rise by nearly £14 a week. At the same time national insurance rates for most workers will take another 1.25 percent from their wages.

To stop the collapse in living standards, requires greater workplace struggle to win more from bosses, councils and the government. The strikes taking place now in the universities—which include a pay demand—and those in the private sector are more important than ever.

There is plenty of money for those at the top. This week British bankers will start collecting the biggest bonuses since before the 2008 global financial crisis. Super-wealthy bankers are celebrating in the City of London’s pubs and wine bars.

“We have had quite the run on champagne—the poshest champagne we stock,” says James. He’s a bartender at the New Moon on Leadenhall Market, near the headquarters of many of the City of London’s banks. 

“They come here to celebrate when they get told their ‘number’—the numbers seem to have been particularly obscene this year,” he told the Guardian newspaper.

London’s big four banks—HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest—are expected to pay bonuses totalling over £4 billion when they report annual results in the next fortnight. Combined, the banks’ annual profits are expected to exceed £34 billion—the most since 2007 just before the financial crash.

The bankers’ huge paydays come after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey—who grabbed £575,538 last year—called on workers not to ask for pay rises. He won’t be denouncing his fellow bankers.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC trade union federation, said the huge increase in bankers’ pay was “an insult to working families across Britain”. “While millions struggle with the cost of living, executive bankers are set to receive yet another cash windfall,” she said. 

“At a time when workers are being told not to ask for a decent pay rise, no such restraint is being asked of the City. We should be holding down bonuses, not ordinary people’s wages.”

Good. But that’s just whistling in the wind unless it’s backed up by struggle. Instead of pleading with the ruthless Tories, the union leaders have to encourage every spark of resistance to combat the cost of living crisis. And while they don’t, rank and file activists have to both pressure them and organise resistance themselves.

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