Tis’ the season where advertising for Christmas gifts and festive food goes into overdrive – unfortunately the same can’t be said for people’s frozen wages.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released yesterday (December 13) show average earnings increasing by 2.5 per cent, compared to inflation of 3.9 per cent.
The figures prompted a warning from Unite that many will be forced into painful choices over money this Christmas.
At a time when household budgets are already stretched to their limits, the news is likely to be given a frosty reception by struggling workers.
Just ask Leeds’ paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, who is barely getting by and lives “hand to mouth” because she hasn’t had a pay rise in more than seven years.
“Household bills rise with inflation year on year but my salary doesn’t,” said Unite member Debbie, echoing the concerns of public and private sector workers across the country.
“Everyone’s miserable and really broke because we’re all so badly paid,” explained a Premier Inn worker and Unite member who did not wished to be named.
“It’s awful. I earn under £9 per hour and I am really struggling to pay rent,” said another Premier Inn worker.
It’s the same situation for thousands of local government maintenance and housing workers, on whose behalf Unite have recently tabled a pay claim in response to their earnings falling by a fifth in real terms since 2010.
Unite national officer for local authorities, Jim Kennedy, said, “Workers report they can’t afford life’s essentials like accommodation, food and heating. They simply can’t make ends meet.”
The cold hard truth is that falling pay and rising living costs are a fact of life for millions of British workers, one made especially glaring during the Christmas holidays.
The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that the UK now has the highest rate of inflation among the developed economies.
This has led to increasing prices, with food products seeing some of the steepest markups, while from January 2 rail fare rises will hit a five year high of 3.4 per cent.
Higher costs come at a time when real income growth has been falling for a decade – a decline not seen the 1860s.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “For too many people work simply doesn’t pay enough to meet the bare essentials, leaving families across the UK facing painful choices this Christmas.
“The continued squeeze in living standards, combined with changes and freezes to in work benefits like tax credits are forcing people into destitution.
“One in eight workers is now forced to eke out a living in poverty.
“We need no back-slapping from ministers, but real action to boost incomes, to rid the economy of exploitative insecure work such as bogus self-employment and zero hours contracts and to put money in the pockets of hard-up public sector workers.”