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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Wages and jobs

by New Worker correspondent

THERE IS mixed news about wages and jobs in the UK. It appears that that post-pandemic boom is about to end. The unemployment figure in the three months to July was 3.6 per cent, the lowest on record since 1974. Rises in regular pay are also failing to keep up with rising living costs.

James Reed, owner of the, says: “There are still very large numbers of vacancies and people are still advertising a lot of jobs, and that’s why we’ve seen unemployment continue to go down,” adding that “a lot of employers are still struggling to recruit.”

The fall in unemployment is partly due people giving up looking for work. The inactivity rate has risen to 21.7 per cent, which means a lot of people of working age do not have jobs. Advertised vacancies have fallen 34,000 between June and August in the same period.

Pay growth in the private sector from May to July was six per cent, whilst in the public sector it was only two per cent. This is the largest gap for many years. The public sector unions had better get their boots on.

Bosses moan that they cannot get workers, which puts trade unions in a strong position. The BBC quotes the lament from Rob Sutton, founder of RKW, a Stoke-on-Trent-based small domestic appliances maker. He dislikes that fact that his wage bill has increased up by more than £2.5m in the last two years, as if that was a bad thing for the working class.

He told of “examples where recruitment agencies have come onto our car park where our employees are parked and they put letters on the windscreens saying ‘we will give you £1,000 to come and join the company’ to entice them away because there has been a massive shortage of order picking and warehouse operators”. This situation he claims is due to “a lot of the European workers have gone home pre-COVID”.

Unions need to ensure that they make hay whilst the sun shines by recruiting, so that they are in a strong place when defensive battles have to be fought.

Tuesday saw the announcement that supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has given an extra pay rise of 25p per hour from mid-October to 127,000 hourly-paid store staff, taking the them from £10 to £10.25 per hour, and £11.05 to £11.30 per hour in London. USDAW claims that the 2022 pay rise is 7.9 per cent in total and amounts to 28 per cent since 2017.

USDAW national officer Dave Gill said: “It is a very challenging time at present and we are particularly pleased that this additional increase, due to take effect from October 2022, will not replace the usual pay review process which takes place annually in March.

“With the cost of living continually rising, we have kept open our dialogue with Sainsbury’s and we are pleased the business has responded so positively. This is an unprecedented additional autumn pay award and the free food and additional discount will be appreciated by our members.”

His last point refers to the fact that the new package also provides staple food items during shifts until the end of the year, and higher discounts at Sainsbury’s and Argos. That makes one wonder if there will be disputes if someone thinks smoked salmon is a staple. More seriously, it is a disgrace that workers’ wages are so low that such minor fringe benefits are deemed so important by senior trade union officials.

Finally, just to prove a point about the continuing class struggle, in Newcastle more than 200 workers at Baker Hughes, manufacturer of pipelines for the oil and gas industry, are being balloted by GMB for industrial action having turned down pay offers of four and 4.56 per cent.

Michael Hunt, GMB Organiser, said: “These workers are facing the worst cost of living pressures in a generation. Four and a half per cent is nowhere near enough.

“This is a multinational company making vital pipes for the energy sector – its order books are full for years to come. It can afford to do better by its workers.”