Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/831/19587
The Socialist 29 October 2014 |
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Record numbers of workers suffering poverty pay under the Con-Dems
The Socialism 2014 banner on display at the October 2014 TUC demo, photo by Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
The continuing scandal of low pay again hit the headlines last week when the Resolution Foundation think tank published figures showing a record number of workers in the UK on poverty wages.
Over five million workers earn less than less than two-thirds of the median hourly pay - equivalent to £7.69 an hour - a rise of 250,000 over the last year. And almost a quarter of minimum wage workers (now earning £6.50 an hour) have remained on it for the past five years.
Clearly, the government's continuing pay freeze, as part of its austerity measures to bail out capitalism, and employers using the recession to lower wage rates, have led to a huge drop in workers living standards.
According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which, on paper, is committed to a £10 an hour minimum wage, workers have experienced an 8% slump in real earnings since 2007 - the steepest fall in living standards since Victorian times.
Moreover, the five million plus figure doesn't take in account the many workers who have joined the ranks of the self-employed because they had no other option.
Earlier this year the Resolution Foundation pointed out that self-employment had risen from 650,000 five years ago to a staggering 4.5 million, or 15% of the active workforce. But far from becoming millionaire entrepreneurs the average weekly income of a self-employed person is 20% lower than in 2008 and 40% less than a typical full-time worker.
Recently, many public sector workers in the health service and in government departments walked out in disgust at another effective pay cut - and against a backdrop of Tory chancellor George Osborne hinting that such freezes would continue beyond the span of the next parliament.
The trade unions must protect their members' living standards by coordinating widespread strike action to counter the government and bosses' attacks on pay. This action should prepare the ground for a one-day nationwide stoppage to implement the £10 an hour minimum wage as a step toward a living wage.