IN HER NEW YEAR MESSAGE, Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady has issued a direct challenge to the government to “give Britain a pay rise”.

The challenge comes as new TUC analysis reveals that real wages are barely set to grow over the next five years.

The analysis shows that real wages are set to rise, on average, by just 0.6 per cent (£150) a year between now and 2026. By contrast, the TUC estimates that getting real pay growth back to pre-financial crisis levels (+1.9 per cent a year) would leave workers £500 better off a year, and £2,500 better off by 2026.

Highlighting the cost-of-living crisis facing working families in 2022, Frances O’Grady warns: “If I have one message for this government at the start of 2022, it is this: Britain needs a pay rise.

“Families are bracing themselves for a cost-of-living storm in 2022. Bills are rising – fuel bills fastest of all. Millions of working households have been hit by the cut to universal credit – and will be hit next year by the hike to national insurance.

“Our economy will only recover when working people can afford to spend in local shops and businesses. That’s the way to boost demand, grow the economy and protect jobs.”

Highlighting the damage caused by years of wage stagnation, O’Grady says: “This Conservative UK government has had eleven years to get wages rising. And they have failed, over and over again.

“We are still in the longest period of pay stagnation since the Napoleonic wars. Real wages for millions are less than they were before the bankers’ crisis in 2008. And unless ministers act now, the future looks bleak. Real wages are set to barely move between now and 2026. They will go up by a miserable £760 in total – about £150 a year.

“So, in 2022, we need a long-term economic plan to get wages rising across the economy. If we could get real wage growth to mirror the average growth in the ten years before the bankers’ crisis, real wages would grow by £500 per year – leaving workers £2500 per year better off by 2026. If this Conservative government had achieved that over the past lost decade, workers would be around £8,000 better off today in real terms.”

Emphasising the need for ministers to work with unions, O’Grady said: “The best way to get wages rising is to give workers the power to bargain for better pay from their employers. Ministers should get round the table with unions and employers to hammer out sector-wide fair pay agreements – and every employer should be bound by them.

“Take social care – where more than three in five are still paid less than £10 per hour. Let’s make every social care employer in the country sit down and negotiate fair wages with unions representing social care workers. And let’s make every employer in that sector pay the wage negotiated. That’s how we keep dedicated people working in social care – and reward them fairly.

“Fair pay agreements work all over the world. And they could work here too. They are a sensible, modern solution to the problems of staff shortages, low skills, and low pay. And they will stop a race to the bottom on pay and conditions.”

Issuing a direct challenge to the Prime Minister, O’Grady said: “The government can’t sit this wages crisis out. The pandemic showed us that our society keeps functioning because of the dedication of ordinary women and men, going to work day in day out.

“After decades of real wage cuts and falling living standards, no one can seriously say working people don’t deserve a pay rise.That’s my priority, and the priority of the whole union movement, in 2022. The prime minister should shape up and make it his priority too.”

* Read Frances O’Grady’s message in full here.

* Source: Trades Union Congress