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Wages down, prices up—time to fight the Tories’ squeeze on our living standards

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Issue 2567
Anger is building against the Tories
Anger is building against the Tories (Pic: Neil Terry)

The Tories and bosses tried to spin new inflation figures released on Tuesday as good news for workers.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation—the bosses’ favourite measure—was 2.6 percent this month, apparently lower than expected.

Tories and bankers claimed this means there’ll be less pressure on ordinary people’s budgets. But the figures still mean that prices are going up fast.

The cost of almost all products that people rely on—including food, transport and housing—have shot up in the last year.

And rail fares will go up by much more next January because they’re linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) that rose 3.6 percent.

This older measure of inflation gives a much closer picture of how ordinary people’s living standards are being affected.

CPI was brought in by the European Union (EU) to enforce “fiscal responsibility”.

It’s deliberately lower than RPI to pressure governments into keeping spending on public services down.

Working class people’s living standards are being squeezed between low pay and higher living costs.


New wage figures set to be released on Wednesday were expected to show average weekly earnings have only risen by around 1.8 percent—lower than either inflation measure.

Pay in “real terms”—accounting for inflation—has fallen since the 2008 global capitalist crash and bosses are determined to keep wages low.

The Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay freeze has seen public sector workers get a pay cut. Nurses have lost 14 percent of their pay in real terms since 2010.

But this squeeze on living standards is also fuelling anger—and a mood to fight among some groups of workers.

Outsourced health workers in east London were set to strike for five days from this Friday.

British Airways cabin crew and bin workers in Birmingham are also striking over poverty pay.

Every trade unionist and campaigner needs to build solidarity for these fights and unite them.

But we also need the union leaders to call national action.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that it could ballot its members for industrial action.

The RCN should do this—and other health unions, including Unison, should do the same. The RCN have called for a rally in central London on 6 September.

And the People’s Assembly Against Austerity has called a national demonstration outside the Tory party conference in Manchester on 1 October.

We have to take these opportunities to build the fightback—and the confidence to fight in our workplaces—to beat the pay squeeze.

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