‘Workers can and should demand a pay rise’

Workers’ wages aren’t responsible for inflation – it’s massive profits

Reading time: 4 min

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham writes for the forthcoming Unite Landworker magazine*. She says:

As I write this column, we are in the midst of a cycle of crisis. And once again the rich and the powerful are asking workers to pay for the crisis by calling for wage restraint. We are confronting this by industrial action, but also by uncovering the real facts.

Workers are indeed being lined up to take the fall – again. Both the Governor of the Bank of England and the Prime Minister have called for ‘pay restraint’ – essentially a national pay cut. It’s not wage rises that are driving up inflation, its profits.

But just like that other recent disaster, the financial collapse of 2008, no one reading the latest edition of Landworker has caused the problem, so why are we being told to pay for it again? Could it be that we are not really being told the truth?

This time, the wall of silence has been about profits and firms using rising costs to put up their prices more than they need to. The first report of Unite’s Profiteering Commission was released in June, and it showed that the average profit margin of FTSE 350 companies had gone up by over 70 per cent since 2019. So the average profit margins of the biggest companies in Britain have increased when compared to before the pandemic.

And when profits go up, you can bet your bottom dollar that those companies’ CEOs are there, raking it in too. Over the pandemic supermarkets made a fortune – but now they are having their profits squeezed, apparently, so families can afford to shop with them.

Pity poor Tesco. It’s estimated their profits for this year are being ‘squeezed’ to between £2.4bn to £2.6bn – so we are told, workers will have to accept a lower wage rise. CEO Ken Murphy only received a £4.7m bumper package – a salary increase of 2.25 per cent for 2022-23, with a basic salary of £1.54m for the year to February. This means his overall remuneration package was 224 times higher than the median employee salary at Tesco – at £21,217.

So, why is this not being discussed? It’s not because those with power don’t know, it’s because they don’t want to do anything about it. Many of the firms lining their pockets are the same ones that used the pandemic to ‘Fire and Rehire’ employees – or to cut jobs, pay and conditions.

The trade unions now have to step up. It’s clear that our politicians are failing to protect workers and communities, as living standards are being attacked.

There has been much talk about a ‘summer of discontent’. Well if that means unions sticking up for workers at profitable firms, then I have no problem with that. Strike action is not easy for the workers involved. But what can you do when your boss is making money but trying to cut your pay? And when one set of workers take action, all workers benefit. It’s a stake in the ground.

Don’t be conned. Workers can and should demand a pay rise. What is clear, is that if we don’t do anything, then bad bosses will come for us all.

By Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary

*Unite Landworker will be available in print and on line in a couple of weeks’ time. Check the FDA Sector page of the Unite website where the Summer edition will appear shortly.

Related Articles