Worst decade for living standards since 1920s

Time to fight low pay

Mitie cleaning workers striking for decent pay on 21 January 2014, photo Neil Cafferky

Mitie cleaning workers striking for decent pay on 21 January 2014, photo Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Dave Gorton, Chesterfield Socialist Party

This is the worst decade for living standards since at least World War Two, and probably the 1920s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank.

Years of pay freezes, rises in living costs and benefit changes mean family incomes are growing more slowly now than during the immediate post-2008 crash. Millions have never had a decent pay rise.

This is set to continue – unless challenged – with the IFS predicting workers will earn less in real wages in 2021 than we did in 2008. The biggest losers will be lower-income families.

Real average earnings – which include rising inflation – are forecast to rise by less than 5% over the next five years. Even that is a full 3.7% lower than was projected in March. The chancellor claims the government is preparing for a “rainy day”. For vast numbers it’s already pouring down. For young workers in particular, it’s reaching flood levels.

Not everyone suffers. Recent Trade Union Congress research shows the average corporate FTSE 100 chief executive is paid 123 times the average full-time salary. Directors’ pay rose 47% between 2010 and 2015.

Unions need to do more than research. Claiming workers are more interested in jobs than pay only means some union leaders are admitting failure in their ability to campaign for both.

Pay rises aren’t handed out by benevolent employers or governments; they are fought for. Newly organised sections of workers such as ‘gig economy’ couriers demonstrate workers will fight if they see a chance of winning.

This government is weak. Now is the time to fight. Unionise the unorganised sections of the workforce; build for coordinated industrial action; fight for a £10 an hour minimum wage with no exemptions.