Real terms pay continues to plummet

Latest ONS figures show fastest fall in real wages in over a decade

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The real value of workers’ pay keeps on nosediving, with the latest figures showing the fastest fall in real wages since 2009 as inflation continues to outpace wage rises.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published on Tuesday (April 18) showed that yearly growth in average pay stayed at 6.6 per cent in the three months to February, but total pay fell just over 4 per cent on the year, driven by still record high inflation.

Although wage growth including bonuses rose by nearly 6 per cent, it is understood the rise was fuelled by bumper banker and accountant pay rises in the City of London.

Commenting on the latest figures, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The drop in the value of wages, which are once again well behind inflation, shows just how important it is for unions like Unite to defend workers’ pay.  

“Despite what the chancellor and others in government say, it is abundantly clear that wages are not driving inflation,” she added. “At the same time as real terms pay for working people has plummeted, corporate profits have soared to astonishing new heights.

“Endemic profiteering is driving the cost of living crisis. Politicians are allowing it to happen and expect workers to foot the bill. Unite will not let them get away with it: We will continue to do whatever it takes to defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”  

The latest ONS figures also showed that although economic inactivity – a term used to describe working-age people who are neither employed nor looking for a job – had marginally fallen, those who are not in work because of long-term illness reached a new record of 2.7m people.

The latest figures on falling real wages amid relentless profiteering come as Tesco reported its latest profits last week – although their profits were down on last year, the UK’s largest supermarket still made a record £3bn in profits over the last two years.

Unite highlighted that Tesco’s latest profits were further evidence of rampant profiteering happening right across the economy.

In March, Unite published a new report on profiteering, which showed that the profits of the 350 largest companies in the UK have soared by 89 per cent in 2022 from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Unite’s latest research comes after a similar report Unite published last year which showed that 2021 profit margins of the same top 350 companies jumped 73% compared to 2019.

The latest research reveals a profiteering crisis that continues unabated, with some of the UK’s most profitable industries driving the cost of living crisis.

These include the ‘big 8’ shipping firms, whose profits have soared an astonishing 20,650 per cent since 2019; oil refineries whose profits per barrel have increased by 366 per cent; agribusinesses whose profits have likewise skyrocketed by 255 per cent; and the ‘big 4’ energy firms whose profits have shot up by 84 per cent.

Unite’s new profiteering report has also shown that the UK’s biggest supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, which together sell over half of the UK’s groceries – made combined profits of £3.2bn in 2021, nearly double pre-pandemic levels.

Other large companies that dominate industries such as food manufacturing, energy networks, oil and gas, transport logistics, ports and manufacturing, among others, all saw profits soar compared to 2019.

By Hajera Blagg