The British TUC has been travelling up and down the country in advance of the UK elections, demanding a pay rise. The #payrise tour rolled into the north-east of England on 1 June, where TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady talked to workers in Hartlepool.
“Workers in the north-east are still £400 (€458) a year worse off than they were before the bankers’ crash,” she said. “We want to hear what the politicians are going to do about it. A lot of that low pay has been driven by the cuts to our schools and hospitals.” Casualised employment is widespread, affecting young people in particular. “We want to see at least a £10 (€11.50) minimum wage as soon as possible,” she concluded.
Also on the itinerary was Birmingham, where TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak highlighted the efforts of Unite the Union to secure good quality jobs in the city. “We need to change the way we do business in this country, to have an industrial policy that focuses on good quality jobs,” he argued.
Loss of business confidence and higher prices in the run-up to Brexit, together with low wage-growth, are hitting British workers and their families hard. Prices are rising across retail and service sectors including food, clothes, transport, and fuel and energy. In February, Britain’s inflation rate reached the highest level for more than three years, and continued to climb to 2.6% in April.
Wages are now worth less than in 2008: in the hard-hit north-west of England workers are £1,455 (€1,666) a year worse off. The TUC says this is the longest pay squeeze since Victorian times.