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Tories drive assault on pay amid savage price rises

Inflation stands at 11.3 percent as Rishi Sunak refuses to give doctors just 6 percent, writes Charlie Kimber
Issue 2861
Junior doctors on strike

Junior doctors on strike in central London (Picture: BMA)

The Tories are doubling down on their assault on pay just as price rises are out of control. Rishi Sunak has declared he won’t guarantee to implement even the meagre increases for public sector workers recommended by the pay review bodies. 

Newspapers say these review bodies have called for a 6.5 percent pay rise for teachers in 2023-24, and a rise of 6 percent for junior doctors and other NHS workers. These are below inflation and therefore pay cuts. But Sunak says he might not allow even that.

On Monday he said he was willing to make decisions “people may not like” on pay. He’s right he won’t be liked.

Official figures last week showed that against all the “expert” forecasts and bold predictions, inflation—the rate at which prices are rising—has not fallen. And by some measures, it is going up.

Sunak had made cutting the rate in half by the end of the year one of his key pledges. The government’s preferred CPI measure of inflation stayed at 8.7 percent last month. Core inflation, which strips out items such as food and energy costs, actually rose from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent.

The more accurate RPI index, which includes housing costs, was almost unchanged at 11.3 percent. And food prices are going up by 18.3 percent a year.

The figures underline that when bosses want to push through pay deals of 6 percent—or less—they are demanding pay cuts once price rises are taken into account. And union leaders who agree to such offers are betraying their members.

The Tories’ inflation strategy is bankrupt because they won’t interfere with capitalist priorities. They refuse to crack down on profiteering by big business, won’t implement price controls, and cannot sort out the chaos of the system that puts up prices.

Instead, they have a class war programme of cutting wages and jacking up interest rates. Their hope is that this will trigger a recession that makes workers afraid for their jobs, and therefore they won’t dare ask for pay increases.

The day after the inflation figures came out, the Bank of England put up interest rates by 0.5 percent. That will mean big rises in mortgages and rents.

Already millions of poorer people are living a “horrendous new normal” of debt, hunger, and fuel poverty, according to a new survey. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said, “5.7 million low-income households are having to cut down or skip meals because they don’t have enough money for food. The number going without items such as food, heating or basic toiletries has remained around 7 million for more than a year.”

Workers need to confront Sunak’s attacks. There’s a danger that some union leaders will shrink their demands to what the pay review bodies have recommended. That’s arguing for cuts.

And there can be no reliance on Labour. Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, was asked last weekend if she would accept pay review body figures. 

She replied, “No, we haven’t even seen them, so I’m not going to pre-empt that. And I’ve also always been very clear that Labour’s fiscal rules are absolutely non-negotiable.”

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