British workers are striking in vast numbers as decades-high inflation erodes the value of wages. Workers understand that a pay rise below the rate of inflation is a real-term pay cut.
Official data released on Wednesday showed UK inflation at a 40-year-high – above 10 percent, as soaring food and energy prices hurt millions of Britons.
UK unions are fighting to defend their member’s wages and working conditions.
“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to defend jobs, pay and conditions during this cost-of-living crisis,” Sharon Graham, head of major British union, Unite, said this week.
The Bank of England has forecast inflation to top 13 percent this year, tipping the British economy into a deep and long-lasting recession.
“This record fall in real wages demonstrates the vital need for unions like Unite to defend the value of workers’ pay,” Graham said, while hitting out at suggestions, including from BoE governor Andrew Bailey, that pay rises were fuelling inflation.
“Wages are not driving inflation,” she insisted ahead of the latest UK inflation data that showed rocketing food prices were the main factor behind July’s spike.
Inflation has soared worldwide this year largely because of surging energy prices, fuelled by the invasion of Ukraine by major oil and gas producer Russia.
More than 115,000 British postal workers employed by former state-run Royal Mail plan a four-day strike from the end of August.
Telecoms giant BT will face its first stoppage in 35 years and walkouts have recently taken place or are soon to occur by Amazon warehouse staff, criminal lawyers and refuse collectors.
In a new development a campaign group, Enough is Enough, has been launched.
Trade unions, community organisations and MPs have joined forces in the hopes of “winning back dignity for working-class people” as Britain braces for the biggest economic crisis in a decade.
Rail, Maritime and Transport Union Secretary General Mick Lynch is among those heading up the Enough Is Enough campaign that is calling for pay rises, energy bills to be slashed, an end to food poverty, affordable housing, and a tax on the richest in society.
Speaking in a campaign video shared on social media, Mr. Lynch said: “People are fed up with the way they’re treated at work. We need to turn that mood into real organisation on behalf of the working class.”
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, has joined calls from other union leaders and activists for strikes to be coordinated and for protests to take place alongside them. He said:
“I welcome the formation of the campaign group Enough is Enough as a positive step to organise protests. Unions cannot rely on the Labour Party to fight back politically (though there are many good people in that Party). Unions must campaign on both an economic and political level directly and encourage other community groups and campaigners to join them. The demands of Enough is Enough are ones that will resonate with ordinary people. At heart they are about fairness and respect. Don’t British workers deserve that? I urge all right-thinking people whatever their views on other issues might be to support Enough is Enough.
Unions must also plan for aggression from the Tory government. Tory transport minister Grant Shapps wrote in the Daily Mail, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew Luddite trade unions were a barrier. She delivered prosperity by taking them on – and so will we.’
It’s a threat to every union and to every worker who wants to defend their pay, job and conditions.
Unions will be attacked by the Tories politically with new bans and anti-union laws. They will seek to prevent unions from organising strikes to protect their member’s wages and conditions. They will seek to gag and restrict unions. That political attack must be defended using all weapons available, political, legal, and economic. Unions cannot accept real-term wage cuts to their member’s wages or see their conditions worsen. Though our union is small we must play our part in supporting all actions to protect the interests of workers and the rights of trade unions.”
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