“The scale of the assault on living standards needs to be met with an organised response that lifts the incomes of the lowest paid and shifts the burden for funding the economy on to those with the greatest wealth.”
By Ben Folley, Labour Assembly
2022 is set to see the worst living standards squeeze in 30 years, as a decade of stagnant pay will be compounded by increased taxation on work and an inflation hike driven by household bills.
The scale of the assault on living standards needs to be met with an organised response that lifts the incomes of the lowest paid and shifts the burden for funding the economy on to those with the greatest wealth.
Wage statistics published at the turn of the year showed the average salary remains slightly below the 2008 average, almost 15 years ago, when inflation is taken into account. Before Christmas too, the government slashed universal credit payments by £20 a week.
At the same time, the cost-of-living is increasing at a faster rate than ever.
Hitting hardest is the new cap in energy prices, which allows suppliers to increase bills by 54% next month. The new cost of gas and electricity will drive millions more people into fuel poverty with a further rise anticipated in October. Elsewhere food costs are driving inflation, as some staple items have rocketed by around 45% in the past year. Train fares too were increased last week.
The government is allowing privatised utilities in particular to get away with profiteering and paying dividends, whilst racking up bills and failing to take the action necessary to drive up incomes.
That’s why Labour Assembly Against Austerity has set out a new comprehensive set of demands to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, which you can sign up to and organise around – the Workers Can’t Wait petition. Accompanying the petition, activists are coming together on March 16th to demand urgent action to address the cost-of-living crisis and to put forward an alternative to Tory inaction.
The Workers Can’t Wait petition sets out a series of simple demands, which are easily achievable by a government with the right political will. Whilst this government has no will to rebalance the economy to benefit those on low incomes, with Conservative MPs concerned about growing unpopularity – particularly in so-called Red Wall seats – we need to up the pressure on them.
The demands of the petition are clear and set out three demands for increased income – firstly on how Britain needs a pay rise, through a £15 national minimum wage and a pay rise public sector workers are asking for, secondly through increasing statutory sick pay to a real living wage rate, and thirdly through restoring the £20 increase to universal credit and extending it to legacy befits.
The petition also demands a restoration of public ownership in key privatised sectors of the economy, including in the health service and the extension of a public run care service. It also calls on the government to take gas, energy and water, as well as the mail service, back into public hands following years of rip-off bills to fund wealthy shareholder dividends.
Recent weeks have shown trade union action has paid off.
New General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, has said the union ‘will continue to demand significant pay increases to combat this brutal cost of living crisis because we must restore some fairness to working life.’
Unite has secured significant pay rises for bus drivers in places like Eastbourne, Manchester, Nottingham and Weymouth, and is driving a hard-fought campaign for refuse workers in Coventry. The union also recently secured improved conditions for 1800 staff at London’s Barts Hospital, with the hospital taking them in-house from an outsourced employer.
A broad set of cost-of-living demands have been advanced at recent demonstrations called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
On February 12th and March 5th, the People’s Assembly held protests in towns across the country. Their next round of action will be on April 2nd, just as the new energy bills kick-in.
The TUC too, has called a protest at Conservative Party Spring Conference in Blackpool on Saturday 19th of March.
Ahead of the March Budget and People’s Assembly protests in April, Labour activists are encouraged to sign and share the Worker’s Cant Wait petition and supporting trade union actions that take up its demands.
- Join John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, and a range of campaigns, trade unionists and activists on Wednesday, March 16th for “Workers Can’t Wait: Urgent Action to Address the Cost-of-Living Crisis“. Register and find out more here.
- You can add your support to the 10 key demands of the Worker’s Cant Wait petition – read sign and share here.