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Why Britain needs a pay rise

payriselogoTomorrow the TUC demonstration will be highlighting why Britain needs a pay rise. The extent to which people’s living standards have dropped is greater than ever before.

I was shocked when a Unite bus driver told me how every month his wife’s parents have to give them £200 to be able to pay their rent and it is common practise for bus drivers to be on benefits. Paul and his members are not shirkers or skivers and yet these are the people under attack from cuts and austerity.

Recently I have been to many Unite sector committees talking about the need to vote Labour at the General Election. What comes up time and time again is that although they won’t vote Tory there is no enthusiasm to vote Labour. Everyone is being affected by lower wages, attacks on working conditions, job insecurity, housing costs, and a higher cost of living. And yet they do not believe that Labour is the answer to the cost of living crisis.

Something is wrong if Labour is not connecting to these workers, their natural supporters.

Many on the Labour right would argue that it is because we are not tough enough on race, immigration, welfare and austerity. They use the Heywood and Middleton to urge Ed Miliband to toughen Labour’s policy on immigration. They say “we need to be stronger about our messages on immigration” or “people feel the spread of immigration is too fast and the price in terms of low pay and too much housing is too high.”

Surely it is government austerity and attacks on workers rights that is the cause of low pay and unaffordable housing is caused by the lack of house building.

It is nothing to do with immigration.

Labour will never be able to move far enough to the right on immigration to satisfy UKIP voters. All it does is legitimise racism and makes attacks on migrants even worse.

Working people do not want a Labour Party that backs austerity and this is evidenced by the Scottish referendum vote. Working class, Labour heartlands, were the biggest supporters of independence. Every ward in Glasgow voted yes, not because they are die hard nationalists but because they want to retain things like free tuition fees and free prescriptions, and they have no faith in Labour keeping these.

Austerity is the real root of the problem not that people are disillusioned with politics. That is why following an austerity agenda is wrong.

Ed Miliband has taken some bold steps, often against the wishes of the right in the Labour Party, but he has always stepped back from taking the giant leap that is required to bring about real change.

So instead of announcing an £8 minimum wage by 2019 say Labour will immediately make the living wage the minimum wage.

Ban zero hours contracts not just the excesses.

Invest and grow the economy so that everyone feels the benefits of a growing economy creating jobs and higher wages.

People want decent homes, so let’s build a million council homes in the next five years, and in the meantime cap rents until people can be decently housed.

Re-nationalise the railways instead of fudging with public sector bids.

The Tories are the party of austerity and cuts not Labour.

An electoral programme of jobs, growth and real pay rises is the way to end the cost of living crisis, stop UKIP and deliver a Labour victory.

That’s why everyone should be supporting the TUC march on Saturday to give Britain a pay rise and bring hope back to politics.

Mike Hedges chairs the Unite the Union London and Eastern regional political committee

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    “Paul and his members are not shirkers or skivers and yet these are the people under attack from cuts and austerity.”

    Who are the skivers then, who are getting wages , are you saying some of the people who drive buses are skivers or do you agree that benefits should be taken from the sick the disabled and the unemployed to pay your members more money.

    You have fallen in line with New labour thinking, the fact is most bus drivers get the min wage which was set to low and now labour has dropped the living wage and people may or may not get £8 an hour in six years time shows labour is not worth your Unions money.

    I’ve a GMB member and have been for many many years but I’ve a feeling I need to end this sooner rather then later as the Unions are getting less and less important as membership is only growing with take overs.

    Unions need to buck up get more members and dam well go on strike, and stop giving Million to the dam Tory party yes I mean Progress.

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