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Real wages are ‘falling off a cliff’ in fastest drop in two decades

TORY ministers are “doing nothing to stop real wages falling off a cliff,” unions charged today as official figures show take-home pay is falling at its fastest rate in more than a decade.

April saw regular wages excluding bonuses plunge by 4.5 per cent — £26 a week — when adjusted for soaring inflation, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The independent body said the data, based on a comparison with the same period in 2021, represents the worst figures for monthly pay growth this century. 

The consumer prices index inflation rate, currently at a 40-year high of 9 per cent, saw real wages fall by an average of 3 per cent between February and April when compared with the same period last year, it added — the biggest slump since 2011.

The government has increased National Insurance contributions and refused to reverse real-terms cuts to benefits and pensions, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding to coronavirus-related inflationary pressures globally. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed that the 0.3 per cent rise in the number of workers on payrolls between April and May shows that the jobs market “remains robust with redundancies at an all-time low.”

But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady warned that “millions of workers are being forced to choose between paying their bills or feeding their families as real wages fall off a cliff.

“We urgently need action to get people the pay rise they deserve,” she added.

“That means boosting the minimum wage, a real public-sector pay rise and the government supporting, not attacking, unions who are campaigning hard for fairer pay.

“Ministers can’t stand by and do nothing while families all around the country suffer.”

Ms O’Grady, who is due to step down from the union confederation at the end of the year, urged as many people as possible to join the TUC’s We Demand Better rally in London on Saturday.

GMB general secretary Gary Smith said: “People are hurting but Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] and the boss of the Bank of England [Andrew Bailey] are happy to tell workers that they should show restraint and not ask for a proper pay rise.

”It’s out of touch and tin-eared — they just don’t understand what people are going through.”

And Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused ministers of showing “utter complacency about the huge levels of economic inactivity.”


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