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Workers face worst year for pay in decades

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Issue 2585
Local government workers chased the pay pinch grinch earlier this month
Local government workers chased the “pay pinch grinch” earlier this month (Pic: Unite)

Pay will continue to fall for millions of workers in 2018.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation suggests that overall the year ahead will see zero pay growth. That means shrinking pay for many who receive less than the average rise.

Zero pay growth would make 2018 worse than every single year in the three decades running up to the crisis.

Resolution Foundation director Torsten Bell said, “The recent catastrophe of wages in Britain has well and truly managed our expectations.

“The living standards story of 2017 was the return of shrinking pay packets—still £15 a week below their pre-crisis peak and not forecast to fully recover until 2025.

“Far from catching back up, we’ve started digging again.”

Workers broadly agree that this is the most likely outcome for the year ahead. Over half expect their pay to stay the same or fall if they remain in the same job.

Only one in seven expect an increase.

Instead of just watching the misery continue, it’s time for union leaders to start campaigning for and encouraging the strikes that can reverse the assault on living standards.

Rail workers on Arriva Cross Country are on strike in a dispute over rostas and Sunday working. Their last strike on 23 and 24 December was described as “rock solid” by their RMT union.


RMT union general secretary Mick Cash said, “It is disgraceful that the management at Arriva continue to refuse to take the issues at the heart of this dispute seriously. It is the company’s ineptitude and arrogance that has forced us to take further action.

“Our members are standing up for the principles of a decent work life balance and against the abuse of rostering and Sunday working by a management that is out of control.

“The action is rock solid across the franchise from Penzance to Aberdeen and the disruption to services is solely down to Arriva management’s intransigence.”

Rail guards are also striking on Greater Anglia. This is part of a continuing battle over safety and the threat to jobs.

The RMT predicts that next year over a million more trains will run without guards on the five companies it is currently in dispute with over the issue. Those are Greater Anglia Railway, Merseyrail, Northern Rail, Southern Rail and South Western Railway.

Figures passed to RMT show that on Southern Rail alone over 15,000 trains a year are already running fully or partly without a second person.

If the same ratio was applied to South Western Railway that would be the equivalent of 32,000 trains a year across that single franchise alone.

But RMT believes these figures—shocking as they are—represent the thin end of a very large wedge. The union points to plans on Northern Rail and Merseyrail which it says are the “cuts template” for the future.

Under the Northern Rail franchise agreement up to half of services must be able to run without a guard, the equivalent of 457,000 trains a year. And it is planned that all of Merseyrail’s 218,000 trains will run without a guard.

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