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Fat cats breaking the economy with 30% higher profits than pre-pandemic, landmark Unite study finds

THE Unite union laid blame for “broken Britain” at the feet of corporate bosses today as it revealed the extent of profiteering during and after the Covid pandemic.

Bosses lined their pockets while squeezing millions of staff and customers during the cost-of-living crisis, according to Unite’s analysis of company profiteering since 2019.

Britain’s greedflation crisis was laid bare as major profit rises were found in companies of all sizes across almost all sectors since 2018-19.

Businesses raked in £156 billion more in profit over 2021 and 2022 – equivalent to £5,500 per household in Britain – while millions of workers faced their longest pay squeeze in 200 years.

“And this is why our economy is broken,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“Because of the choices of executives, investors, and politicians who choose short-term profits and fat dividends over investing to rebuild our industries and public goods.

“Their choices are tearing apart the fabric of our economic and social commonwealth.

“While workers have been hit with the biggest fall in real wages and living standards in generations, corporations have racked up hundreds of billions in profits.”

FTSE 350 companies are paying 20 per cent more to their shareholders through share buybacks and dividends than they were pre-pandemic, the research into nearly 17,000 businesses found.

Net investment into the firms has meanwhile plunged from £37bn per half year in 2018 and 2019, to £9bn between 2022 and 2023.

“Our research also shows how increased profits haven’t gone into investment for future production and jobs – the UK lingers on the lowest investment rates of all advanced countries,” said Ms Graham.

“Instead, they’ve been drained out into payments for investors.

“The profiteers get away with it because they have the power.”

Profit margins at private equity-backed veterinary chains jumped by 280 per cent at the height of the pandemic, the Unite study also found.

It also listed big banks and energy giants as among the worst offenders.

Banks made £45bn, up 75 per cent on their 2018/19 returns, while oil and gas companies with interests in the North Sea grabbed £64bn in profit in 2022, said the report.

Electricity generation companies managed to almost treble their margins while shipping companies’ profit margins soared to 650-times their pre-pandemic levels, it added.

“We believe that corporate profiteering is a key issue at the heart of the broken economy for a number of reasons,” it stated.

“Corporate profiteering has pushed up inflation, and therefore worsened the cost-of-living crisis faced by workers and communities.”

It added that the resulting redistribution of wealth from workers to bosses and shareholders has been “breaking the economy and … gone hand-in-hand with under-investment.”

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “Working people have been faced with the biggest squeeze on living standards in more than 200 years.

“But while millions still struggle to afford the basics, this report shows many corporate profit margins are booming. 

“Fat cats should not be stripping out excess profits while across the country too many people are unable to make ends meet.

“We can’t carry on like this. We need an economy that works for all.” 

A spokesman for the High Pay Centre think tank said: “The figures provide strong evidence that the UK economy is working to serve the interests of wealthy investors rather than working people.

“We won’t raise living standards meaningfully without the sensible measures that are necessary to redirect the incomes and wealth of the super rich to the rest of the population instead.”

A government spokesperson said: “This government is backing our world-leading businesses and these profits are a cause for celebration.”

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