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Unions call on ministers to get pay packets rising

Real-terms wages falling for the first time in nearly 18 months, official figures show

by our Industrial reporter @TrinderMatt

UNIONS are calling on Tory ministers to get pay packets rising as official figures show that real-terms wages are falling for the first time in nearly 18 months.

Adjusted for soaring inflation, regular pay fell 1 per cent in November compared to the same month in 2020, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data proved today.

It was the first loss in take-home pay since July 2020, as growth in average weekly earnings slumped from 4.3 per cent in the previous quarter to 3.8 per cent in November. 

“Salaries are growing reasonably strongly, but some people are saying they are not feeling much better due to rising prices,” the ONS told the BBC.

The figures showed that the Consumer Prices Index inflation rate increased to 5.1 per cent in November.

It is expected to reach at least 6 per cent by spring, leading the Resolution Foundation think tank to warn that the situation is “likely to get worse” in the first half of 2022.

Labour argued that working people are facing a “punishing cost-of-living crisis” as a result. 

The party demanded action from the government, saying the crisis had been “made in Downing Street,” with last October’s cut to universal credit and imminent rises to National Insurance contributions exacerbating the situation.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady stressed that the data highlights a worsening “squeeze on workers.”

“Working people deserve a decent standard of living and a wage upon which they can raise a family,” she said.

“But instead, following the worst wage squeeze for two centuries, real pay is falling, and they now face a cost-of-living crisis.

“We urgently need to get pay packets rising across the economy, or too many families will have to choose between paying soaring bills or putting food on the table.

“Ministers must give unions more power to go into workplaces and negotiate better pay and conditions, give our public sector workers a decent pay rise, and get the minimum wage up to £10 an hour immediately.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Years of the Conservative Party’s economic incompetence means working people today will not only be paying more in tax under the Tories but also face rocketing heating bills, rising prices and inflation which is set to outstrip wage growth.

“Our plan to deal with rising energy bills would support families with fully funded measures to save most households about £200 or more.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested that wage growth was “relatively healthy by historical standards but of course we are seeing challenges with inflation.”

The MP for Richmond in north Yorkshire — one of the favourites to succeed Boris Johnson as Tory leader should a vacancy arise — claimed that the issues are largely caused by a “global phenomenon.”

“The causes of inflation — whether it is supply chains or energy prices — are of course global in nature, but we are taking action to support people as best we can,” he said.

Today’s figures revealed that the number of payrolled workers had jumped by a record 184,000 — or 0.6 per cent — month on month by December to 29.5 million, despite the impact of the omicron variant of Covid-19.

In the three months to November, unemployment also fell back to 4.1 per cent from 4.2 per cent in the previous quarter, close to pre-pandemic levels of 4 per cent seen in early 2020. 

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