By Charlie Kimber
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Inflation sees average pay fall by 7 percent—strike to win more

This article is over 1 years, 5 months old
Workers across the public sector have been hit the hardest by the wage squeeze
Issue 2823
junior doctors demonstrating over conditions and pay as inflation causes wage squeeze, with placards that read pay our health workers, strike to win and Claps don't pay bills, overworked and underpaid

Junior doctors protesting over pay and conditions in London this July (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Inflation measured by the most accurate RPI index remained at 12.3 percent a year, according to official figures announced on Thursday. That’s the same as a month ago. 

The most basic goods are up even more. Inflation for food and non-alcoholic drinks was at 13.1 percent in August, up from 12.7 percent. Milk, cheese and eggs saw the biggest increases as shops tried to boost profits by raising the cost of essentials.

The government’s preferred CPI index is at 9.9 percent, down a tiny 0.2 percent. The fall is largely due to cheaper petrol prices. It doesn’t mean, even on this index, that prices are now going down. It simply indicates they are going up very slightly less slowly.

Behind the drab statistics is a ferocious assault on workers’ living standards. On Wednesday other statistics said pay had risen by 5.2 percent in the three months to July. So in real terms that means the average worker has seen their pay fall by over 7 percent. If you are paid £500 a week, effectively your wage is now £35 a week less.

If you don’t fight to recover it, it’s gone and will be lost whatever happens to inflation in the future.

Liz Truss claims the £2,500 limit on average energy bills, announced last week, will take five percentage points off inflation compared to what it could have been. Other analysts say it will make three percentage points difference.

But all the estimates expect inflation to remain above pay rises—unless there is a revolt by workers who strike to win more.

A big test is coming for big sections of workers in the public sector. They have been hit hardest by the wage squeeze. Their pay grew by 2 percent in the last year compared with 6 percent in the private sector.

Now firefighters, workers in schools, the NHS, local government and the civil service are all balloting or preparing to ballot on pay strikes. So are university workers. Workers at 26 further education colleges are set for ten days of strikes starting on Monday 26 September.

Millions more workers could join the strike wave. But that will happen only if there are massive campaigns to win the votes and to give activists control over the process.

TUC union federation general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “As the cost of living crisis intensifies, millions of families don’t know how they will make ends meet this winter. The new prime minister must get pay rising. Boosting the minimum wage and giving public sector workers a decent pay rise would be a good start.”

But the government will do nothing unless it faces mass opposition. A good start would be for the RMT and CWU unions to escalate and coordinate the rail and Royal Mail strikes, so they strike on the same day. That could be a focus for every worker.

NHS crisis causes long-term sickness

New figures also confirm the toll of the NHS crisis. The number of workers hit by long-term sickness reached a record high of 2.5 million in July.

More than 150,000 workers joined the list of people with persistent ill-health in just two months.

Almost 400,000 have stopped looking for work because of long-term health problems since early 2020. That’s partly about the way the Tories let Covid run unchecked, and partly about the NHS crisis which causes huge backlogs of untreated people.

The group most affected is workers aged between 50 and 64.

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