”After decades of real wage cuts & falling living standards, no one can seriously say working people don’t deserve a pay rise.”Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary
By Ben Folley
The General Secretary of the TUC and voices across the labour movement have challenged the PM and the government to get wages rising in 2022 – as people face a new cost-of-living crisis on top of a decade of pay restraint.
In a statement, O’Grady said, ‘we need a long-term economic plan to get wages rising across the economy’ and remarked, ‘If this Conservative government had achieved that over the past lost decade, workers would be around £8,000 better off today in real terms’.
She further said, ‘After decades of real wage cuts and falling living standards, no one can seriously say working people don’t deserve a pay rise. That’s my priority, and the priority of the whole union movement, in 2022. The prime minister should shape up and make it his priority too.’
In a New Year message, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham, said, ‘Unite will have no truck with the Bank of England’s call for wage restraint, especially when CEOs continue to bag eye-watering salary and benefit packages. Workers must not be the ones who pay the price of this pandemic. We will continue to fight for members.’
Speaking to Labour Outlook, Jon Trickett said “When prices price, real wages decline. Who then gains from the price rise? The answer is that it is the people at the top who gain. Be part of the fight for better pay. Get active. Join a union.”
Whilst former Shadow Chancellor, Labour MP John McDonnell, looking ahead to 2022, wrote how, ‘a new wave of radicalism is sweeping through the trade union movement’ and that this, ‘reflects also a loss of confidence in the political route to improving the lives of working people with the election defeat of Labour in 2019’.
O’Grady’s message followed the publication of the Resolution Foundation’s ‘Year of the Squeeze’ research between Christmas and New Year. They expect ‘real earnings will have fallen in the year to November’ and ‘the third real wage squeeze in a decade’ in 2022, with ‘a broad-based cost of living catastrophe affecting the vast majority of households: soaring energy bills and significant tax rises will see an annual income hit to the typical household of over £1,000.’
Falling real incomes, from real wages to social security – with the universal credit uplift coming to an end last October costing £1000 per year – will conflict with inflation.
New rail fares announced in December will come into effect in March.
The highest household spending increase is expected in energy bills, with privatised utility companies seeking a significant rise in the energy price cap following the increase in wholesale gas prices, or a significant public bailout. The new cap is due to be announced in February and will come into force in April.
Labour’s frontbench response was to oppose the universal credit cut and are focusing their response to the energy price crisis on removing VAT from energy bills. But as a Labour Assembly Against Austerity spokesperson said, “the scale of Labour’s response is inadequate to say the least to meet the scale of the reduction in incomes. The leadership opposed the ambitious call for a £15 per hour minimum wage at the Conference and there is no challenge to the wasteful role of the private sector in transport or energy. After a decade of restraint, voters need to see the official opposition fighting for better living standards.”
Labour left campaigners should support trade union campaigns to defend wages and to advance the demands for better pay and campaigns to oppose bills, fares and other prices rising should also be supported.