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Britain needs a pay rise

600px-FPF-meme-1-workers-2K-yr-worse-offWe are now in the second week of the Fair Pay Fortnight which is raising awareness about Britain’s cost of living crisis.

Upon taking office in 2010, the Coalition Government promised to “make work pay”. However, those in work have seen an assault on their living standards, with full time UK workers earning on average £2,084 less a year than they were in 2010.

The TUC has organised the Fair Pay Fortnight to deliver one simple message – Britain needs a pay rise.

The UK has one of the highest shares of low paid workers in the developed world, with more than one in five working in low paid employment. The erosion of collective bargaining and the attack on Trade Union activities has led to a decline in wages.

In 1975 the proportion of national income going on wages was 65%, by 2011; this had fallen to 53.7%. In the meantime, the share of GDP going to shareholders has soared, with Will Hutton arguing that 5% to 7% of GDP has moved permanently from the workforce to shareholders. The last two decades has seen the wealthiest 0.1 percent incomes grow nearly four times faster than the least well off 90 percent of the population and recent research by Oxfam revealed that the UK’s richest five families have a greater combined wealth than the poorest twenty per cent, or 12.6 million people.

The stagnation of wages and the higher costs of living are pushing more people into the welfare system at a time of public spending restraint. The Government’s solution to higher welfare spending is to cut support for those in need, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems. We have seen benefit cuts, the disabled fined for having a spare bedroom, and now the welfare cap.

The Government seeks to divide the nation portraying their welfare changes as a fight between the strivers and skivers; however, this is a false division, the reality is that most people on benefits are in work, and it is working families that will be hit by the welfare cap, and the Government’s plan to cut a further £12 billion from social security.

Those in work should be paid a living wage that affords them decent housing and enough income to live independent of the welfare system. However, poverty pay and a lack of house building has left the taxpayer subsidising wages and paying benefits to landlords.

The UK is in crisis, and the system is failing, when two thirds of children in poverty live in working households, and when the vast majority of new housing benefit claims are made by households containing working adults.

The much vaunted economic recovery does not exist for the majority of people, and will not start until we get more money to working people. The only way to secure a strong and fair recovery is to ensure that the wealth creator, ordinary people working day in day out, are paid a living wage and can afford decent housing.

Britain needs a pay rise.

2 Comments

  1. Mark Webster says:

    Grahame,

    Good article, these are powerful statistics that show the need for stronger unions.

    i think it all starts at the very bottom though, with those on out of work benefits (or on hardship payments). Once the state has instituded a punitive regeime of benefit sanctions for those that can not find work there is a real level of anxiety in those that are clinging on to low paid and precarious jobs. Can you really stand up and negotiate with the boss when you could be facing a 3 year benefits sanction and eviction from your home if you are dismissed or pushed out of your job ? Of course the answer is no; so you have a supine , fearful , low paid workforce in precarious jobs. I’m not sure how unions can help with this , but the issue isn’t just about maintaining public sector pay (important though that is), the key issue is stregthening the bargaining position of those in precarious private sector jobs and those on benefits. If unemployment is prevented from being a complete catastrophe, you can bargain a little harder with an employer. Otherwise, there’s no chance. We desperately need a government (Labour?) that will remove the regeime of benefit sanctions, not just for those that face them, but to stregthen the bargaining position of all those in low paid jobs. The climate of fear starts with the fear of unemployment and permeates through the whole low paid sector.

    I suspect it is only the unions that can make any progress on this issue, as it’s too politically toxic to fight for the rights of the “benefit scroungers”.

  2. Robert says:

    A good way of course is to get Union interested in having members at the moment those at the top of the tree are happy with life, good wages good pension and a tidy life, those at the bottom tend to be unable to afford £6 a week money to join.

    And if it was cheaper what’s the use of joining the Union leaders tend to be more political then some of the bosses.

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