The current surge in food prices, the fastest in 45 years, is causing a social emergency for millions of households in Britain due to inflation.
Tory government cuts since 2010 have already led to widespread hunger, as evidenced by the exponential growth of food banks. Despite media reports portraying the “cost-of-living crisis” as recent, it has been building for 15 years, with wages remaining stagnant below inflation. That’s why we use the plural of crisis, crises, as it isn’t just one but a series.
The Tory government has presided over a steady rise in child poverty and in-work poverty, disproving the notion that wages are driving inflation. Instead, monopolistic corporate giants are raising prices much faster than wholesale food prices. The food industry’s eight top UK manufacturers have made obscene profits of £22.9 billion, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda increasing their profits by 97% in 2021. Unite’s warning of a “greedflation” crisis points to the corporate profiteers responsible for the current crisis.
The lie that wages are driving inflation has been exposed in detail by the trade union movement, especially the invaluable economic studies published over the past year by Unite’s research unit Unite Investigates. Wages cannot be driving inflation when they are falling so far behind it — and have been doing so for over a decade.
The Solidarity union firmly rejects the notion that higher wages lead to inflation, and we refuse to accept real-term pay cuts for workers – meaning pay increases that don’t keep pace with rising prices. We believe that workers must continue to demand pay deals that match inflation and restorative pay deals to compensate for previous years of cuts, as seen in the case of Junior Doctors.
In private companies we welcome profit sharing as part of wage negotiations (as has been offered by Royal Mail) as well as consideration of a range of benefits in all sectors (such as the extension of free railway travel to rail staff).