Government policy is contributing to toughest livelihood squeeze in decades, says the Trades Union Congress ahead of the Chancellor's budget statement today (23 March 2011).
Commenting on the latest inflation figures published on 22 March by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which show that RPI inflation increased to 5.5 per cent in February, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber declared: "These awful figures show workers are paying a heavy price for the recession and the government's reckless response to it."
"With wages falling far behind inflation - RPI is at its highest for 20 years - and the cost of commuting rising by nearly eight per cent, workers are facing the toughest livelihood squeeze in decades," Barber said.
He added: "Worse still, the government is making things even tougher by imposing pay freezes across the public sector and growth-sapping spending cuts that give few opportunities for workers to ask for higher pay rises."
"The government must get back on the side of squeezed workers by abandoning its spending cuts, reversing the inflation-fuelling VAT rise and prioritising growth and jobs in the budget, rather than sweeteners for big business," said the TUC leader.
According to the latest inflation figures, RPI inflation - the measure most commonly used in wage settlements - increased from 5.1 to 5.5 per cent in February 2011.
The cost of food increased to 6.2 per cent and transport increased to 7.9 per cent, based on CPI inflation.
Meanwhile, The TUC-led 'March for the Alternative' is taking place in central London on Saturday 26 March 2011. Up to half a million protesters are expected.
The march will form up from 11am on the Victoria Embankment between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges and proceed through central London until reaching Hyde Park, where the rally will start from around 1.30pm.
Buses and trains have been commissioned from across England, Scotland and Wales to bring demonstrators to the capital.
The emphasis will be on alternatives to the cuts (www.marchforthealternative.org.uk), which critics say are not reducing the UK deficit, but merely hitting living standards, attacking the poor, weakening the economy and redistributing wealth from those with less to those with more.
The so-called UK "Misery Index" (the combination of inflation and unemployment) has now hit a 20-year high, government figures suggest.
The latest government inflation figures can be found at (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file): www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/cpi0311.pdf