Scandal of unequal Britain

14 day deadline to breadline

A picket at St Leonard's hospital in Hackney, London, 24.11.14, photo by Paul Mattsson

photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Alison Hill

Many MPs will be looking forward to 2015 – perhaps not to the general election but to the 11% pay rise they’ll get if they survive it. And if £74,000 a year isn’t enough to live on, and some of them claim it isn’t, there’s always the Westminster Food Bank – the House of Commons canteen.

Some are a bit embarrassed by this generous pay deal, on top of a series of equally generous packages. ‘We can’t do anything about it’ they cry, ‘it’s all decided by an outside body.’

But all this flannel doesn’t conceal the real scandal of unequal Britain which has been revealed once again in a recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It paints a horrifying picture of working families living in poverty. Where the much boasted about fall in unemployment is in reality a picture of people working for much less than the living wage and in many cases lower than the minimum wage.

The scourges of zero-hour contracts and ‘self employment’ have plunged thousands of families into poverty and uncertainty. The report found that nearly 1.4 million people are on zero-hour contracts and 13% of self-employed people are earning less than they did five years ago.

And once your income is uncertain your housing becomes uncertain, your heating becomes uncertain and even your next meal becomes uncertain.

The average UK household has so little in savings that it has just 29 days after losing its main income before becoming dependent on benefits and friends. For working age households this is reduced to 14 days. They call this the ‘deadline to breadline’. What a scandal in 2014!

Families are teetering on the edge of poverty. Parents are giving up meals to feed their children. People are living on credit cards and pay day loans, selling possessions and not surprisingly suffering from stress-related illnesses.

Who is speaking up for these millions? Not the cosseted MPs having to suffer the embarrassment of another fat pay rise. Time to organise to kick them out. Time to build a party that will really represent and fight for working people and change the system that can only offer us breadline Britain.

The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition which aims to stand 100 anti-austerity candidates in next year’s general election.

BFAWU president Ian Hodson (with megaphone) on a Fast Food Rights protest

BFAWU president Ian Hodson (with megaphone) on a Fast Food Rights protest   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

“As a minimum wage fast-food worker I find living on £6.50 an hour impossible. On a zero-hour contract and with the price of living soaring, a social life is both too expensive and difficult to organise as I could be pulled into work at any time. Things like moving out from home are stressful rather than enjoyable and liberating.

This is why I campaign with Youth Fight for Jobs against zero-hour contracts, for guaranteed hours and a £10 an hour living wage. Only by organising a mass campaign of working class people can we better our lot and win a decent standard of living for all.

I will be attending the day of action in Cardiff for £10 now on 4 December and have decided to get organised and join the bakers’ union BFAWU.”

A fast food worker, Cardiff