TUC congress: Reject Carney’s ‘equality of sacrifice’

Neil Cafferky

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) met on 7-10 September off the back of the longest continuous decline in working class living standards in 100 years.

But with numerous speeches about the terrible impact of austerity on workers, in contrast to the increasing fortunes of the rich, Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s appearance as a guest speaker struck an odd note.

Carney claimed: “The burden of the great recession has been shared across the UK. Profits have been squeezed almost as much as labour costs. Employees have seen their real incomes reduced, but more people are in work as a result.”

Readers of the Socialist can be reassured that despite this ‘equality of sacrifice’, food banks and pay day lenders are yet to be inundated with big business bosses suffering the ill-effects of falling profits.

Role of the unions

Carney also seemed to misunderstand the purpose of trade unions. Commenting on the need for economic “reforms” to boost job growth he congratulated the TUC. “There is a clear danger of a misplaced, if not lost, generation of workers in the euro area and in the US.

“Britain’s labour force and trade unions deserve great credit for ensuring that this risk is much lower in the UK. By sharing the burden, our economy is better positioned for the future.”

In reality, Carney was praising the TUC for holding back struggle to defend living standards. But cutting pay does not defend jobs. If your enemy is praising you, you must be doing something wrong!

The conference was dominated by the question of workers’ pay with motions backing a £10 an hour minimum wage and campaigns for a wage rise in the public sector overwhelmingly passed.

Public sector pay

Seconding the motion on public sector pay and living standards, Chris Baugh from the PCS said: “Now is the time to make the case for a pay rise.”

Moving the motion Unison general secretary Dave Prentice hinted at further strike action saying: “Unless employers negotiate we will build on the action on 14 October.”

The motion on £10 an hour minimum wage was moved by the BFAWU bakers’ union general secretary Ronnie Draper. Citing the $15 an hour movement in the US as an inspiration, he argued that £10 an hour would lift five million workers out of poverty.

Union members need to be clear with the leaders of the TUC that it is not the role of trade unions to assist the bosses to make greater profits. They already have people like Mark Carney and the mainstream parties for that. The congress’ demands for better wages will only be won through organisation and a determination to take action until they are achieved.