Sadly Unite’s fears that the government would make workers pay for the pandemic were borne out in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget statement today (Wednesday October 27).
In response, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The Chancellor’s statement today makes it clear that the government wants workers to pay for the pandemic. Their incomes are under attack from tax rises and inflation while the super-rich will continue to prosper. That is not acceptable.
“So, workers will need unions more than ever. Union members consistently get higher pay than non-members and Unite the union will be fighting to improve our members’ real wages in the face of these attacks.
“This Budget also failed to invest in growth and jobs on anything like the scale required. The government delayed its own targets for R&D investment and the talk about world class public services is laughable – we will need more than a little bit of rowing back on the damage done by years of austerity policies to get there. This is a million miles away from fixing the every-day realities of life for those facing broken services or those in the never-ending queue for vital NHS operations.
“Then take the raising of the National Minimum Wage. An extra 59p is nowhere near enough. So, to get a decent wage workers will still have to fight and win pay rises by organising in unions and fighting for a better deal.
“This was a Budget of smoke and mirrors and in time will be seen to be one of insignificant promises that will never be kept. New economy? More like same old same old.”
Sharon also responded to the Chancellor on area of particular importance to Unite members – we’ve included these below.
Sharon Graham on inflation – ‘Fighting for serious increases in pay’
“The Chancellor said CPI will average 4 per cent next year. But that figure understates the real rise in cost of living for ordinary workers, which is better illustrated by RPI. The OBR (office for borrowing responsibility) says that RPI will hit 5.4 per cent in the first and second quarters of 2022.
“We will be fighting for serious increases in workers’ pay that mean their real incomes go up rather than being reduced.”
Sharon Graham on pay – ‘59p falls well short’
“A 59p rise in the National Minimum Wage falls well short of the pay rise low-paid workers need. It is also very far short of the pay rises workers are already winning for themselves through trade union action.
“It isn’t enough to talk about returning to pay levels before Covid, when workers already faced the longest wage squeeze in modern history.
“We know government isn’t going to deliver the serious, inflation-busting pay rises Unite members need. We are going to organise and win what we are owed ourselves.”
To illustrate this point Unite believes that the new National Minimum Wage of £9.50 (from £8.91) should rise to £15 as soon as possible. In one recent Unite negotiated pay rise Liverpool tanker drivers saw their pay increase by 17.5 per cent, proving with Unite decent pay rises can be delivered.
Sharon Graham on public sector pay – ‘pay public sector workers what they’re owed’
“Ending the pay freeze of key workers in public services is long overdue, but now it’s time for our key workers to be paid what they are owed.
“Unite and sister unions in public services reject the derisory pay cuts offered to workers in local government, health and social care. We’re already fighting for those frontline workers to win the substantial pay increases that must make up for ten years of cuts and pay freezes.
“The Chancellor’s statement on the lifting of the freeze was smoke and mirrors. It is to be lifted but he gave no indication of how it will be paid,” she added.
On public sector pay Unite is calling for “at least 10 per cent minimum uplift,” in local government; and for NHS workers, £3,000 or 15 per cent, whichever is greater.
Sharon Graham on Universal Credit changes: ‘does little to make work pay’
“The Chancellor is taking with one hand and giving less back with the other. Today’s change to Universal Credit helps less than half of the 4m people who’ve just had their incomes cut by £1,000 a year. The left hand took £6bn away this month and the right hand in today’s Budget only put £2bn back. They might have cheered on the Tory benches but in reality that does little to make work pay.”
The Universal Credit taper has reduced by 8 per cent (from 63 per cent to 55 per cent) which benefits 2m ‘in work’ claimants. However it doesn’t make up for the cut in UC for 4.4m people.
By UNITElive team
More on the budget to follow shortly