UK wage growth will be lowest since 1920s

Dave Semple, PCS union rep (personal capacity)

Chancellor George Osborne’s pet austerity apologists at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have released figures predicting wage growth of just 6.2% over the decade to 2020. This is less than half the 12.7% growth from 2000 to 2010.

Since 2010, growth in prices (inflation) has outstripped wage growth even using the lower estimate represented by the ‘consumer price index’.

OBR figures reveal that only from 1900 to 1910 and from 1920 to 1930 was wage growth lower, at 1.8% and 1.5%. These were decades of serious attacks on the union movement.

The 1901 Taff Vale judgment allowed bosses to sue unions for loss of earnings during strikes. The 1927 Trades Dispute Act banned sympathy strikes and mass picketing, and restricted unions’ political funds to members specifically opting in.

Parallels with the 2015-16 Trade Union Bill are clear.


It is the timidity of union leaders which encourages attacks both on workers’ rights and on wages.

In October 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) staged the “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” march. Turnout was high and angry. Behind the rhetoric, however, the TUC and right-wing leaders of the major unions opposed calls for concerted strike action over pay.

There is a clear thirst to fight for more. Public sector union PCS organised monthly “pay day e-actions” in late 2015, including 5,000 emails from individual members to one civil service boss. The recent rock-solid strike action by train workers against Arriva in Wales shows this too.

Decisive, coordinated, escalating action on pay would inspire millions of workers to take on the anti-union laws, and rally the un-unionised majority. This is what the Socialist Party campaigns for.