Unions respond to cost of living crisis

New figures show that wages have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living.

17 Mar 2022| News

Unions have warned that households are already “stretched to the breaking point” due to the impending increase in bills, as new figures show that wages have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The cost-of-living crisis hitting households across the UK is being exacerbated by soaring energy bills and stagnating wages. The latest employment figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that real wages fell by 1.5 per cent (using CPI) over the year. The figures prompted unions to warn that wages are already struggling to keep up with inflation, just as living costs are expected to rise further.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said: 

“Working people deserve financial security and a wage they can live on. 

“But instead, they are facing the steepest decline in real pay for eight years, and a cost of living crisis that will get worse if the government doesn’t act now.

“Energy bills will rise at least 14 times faster than wages this year. Household budgets are already stretched to the brink and can’t take any more.

“The government must use the spring statement to act.

“We need a plan to get wages rising in all jobs, a boost to Universal Credit, and a windfall tax on oil and gas profits – with the money raised going to energy grants for hard-pressed families.”

Rising costs in energy are putting further strain on finances; with rising gas costs already in the public eye, the consumer price index rate of inflation hit 5.5 per cent (a 30-year high). Experts are predicting further price increases of as much as 9 per cent, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said:

“Most of the energy price shocks households face were utterly predictable and a result of chronic political failure. 

“The erosion of our energy infrastructure — not least gas storage and the increased dependency on imports from authoritarian regimes — has run parallel to years of public-spending cuts and a race to the bottom on pay and conditions in swathes of the private sector.

“The UK desperately needs a grown up energy policy that lives in the real world, while workers across public and private sectors need a proper pay rise that means they don’t have to choose between eating or heating.”

Christina McAnea, UNISON General Secretary, said:

“Seeing wages rises well below inflation will be chilling for millions of people already struggling with soaring prices and bills.

“It’s even more troubling for public service workers who’ve had little or nothing extra in their wage packets.

“With food, energy and tax rising, ministers must find the money to ensure those in the public sector are rewarded fairly and don’t have to leave the jobs they love to get decent pay.”

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary said:

“Soaring inflation is not the fault of workers.  This is yet another crisis not of their making so why should workers be made to pay for it?

“It’s a national disgrace that some workers in the UK have to choose between heating and eating while profits rain down in boardrooms.

“Unite will continue to demand significant pay increases to combat this brutal cost of living crisis because we must restore some fairness to working life.”