Give us a reason to vote Labour

by Daphne Liddle

THOUSANDS of NHS workers took strike action briefly on Monday. On Wednesday it was the turn of thousands of civil servants to do the same. Teachers are balloting for a national strike next month. The common theme in all these strikes is the shockingly low level of pay of public sector workers compared to the rising costs of living.

The TUC has been campaigning for a long time now with the demand: “Britain needs a pay rise”. Public and private sector workers in Britain have seen the value of their wages steadily shrinking now for three decades and it is shocking now that families with two people in work are not getting enough in their wages to cover the most basic living costs and have to depend on tax credits and housing benefits to survive.

And now that these benefit levels are being steadily reduced workers are having to turn to food banks to feed their children. A TUC analysis published last Sunday shows that workers in Britain suffering the longest and most severe decline in real earnings since records began in Victorian times.

This year, workers across Britain face the seventh consecutive year of falling real earnings — a situation that has no historical precedent, says the TUC. Even the pay squeeze of the long depression of the 1920s was shorter. The total decline in earnings since 2007 is over eight per cent, according to the TUC analysis.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that even the most infamous periods of pay depression in the last 150 years pale into comparison when looking at the current seven- year collapse in earnings.

no evidence

“The Government says the economy is growing again, but there’s no evidence of any recovery in ordinary workers’ pay packets. Across the country people are struggling to make ends meet, as their pay lags behind prices and there seems to be no end in sight to their financial misery.

“Vast swathes of Britain are long overdue a pay rise. That’s why we expect to see tens of thousands join our march next weekend, calling on politicians and employers to help them share in the recovery and start spending again without fear of falling into debt.”

New Communist Party economist Alex Kempshall, in a centre-spread article in this paper, estimates that on average workers need a pay rise of £173-a-week to restore the value of wages to those of workers in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Pay is a burning issue for millions of families. But the Tories are promising us more and more cuts, more wage freezes and never-ending austerity. They have also offered income tax cuts that will mostly benefit the rich but will only save a few pennies for the low-paid. If they wanted to help the low-paid a cut in VAT would go a lot further.

Labour on the other hand is offering a miserably small rise in the minimum wage that will not offset rising living costs. It is not enough!

Labour has also pledged to abolish the bedroom tax but it has not yet promised to restore benefits. They have promised to protect the NHS but not to repeal the Con Dem Coalition’s notorious Health and Social Care Act of 2012.

Even the Tories are now saying this Act was their “biggest mistake” but they are only saying it to try to persuade fools to trust them again with care of the NHS.

There is plenty of money available in this country. The filthy rich and the giant corporations owe billions and billions to us in unpaid taxes.

If Labour fails to promise serious and drastic measures to address the yawning wealth gap in this country, many workers will feel little motivation to vote for them. And there is a real danger that the Tories will hold on to power — possibly in a coalition this time with the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip).

Labour is currently marginally ahead in the polls — not because it is doing anything positive but because the alternatives are so much worse.

This is not enough to hold on to that fragile lead. Labour must promise to restore us a living wage, benefits we can survive on when we are sick or unemployed and a fully publicly owned NHS.

And then they must deliver those promises when in power.

Ultimately, the workers need to take measures much stronger than an election to end the wealth gap permanently and ensure workers get back in full the value of the wealth they create.