Tens of thousands of people will join a protest march on Saturday calling on the Government to do more to tackle the cost of living crisis amid “harrowing” evidence of the impact of soaring inflation on families.
Trade union leaders, frontline workers and community organisations will be among those at the demonstration in London, demanding a “better deal” for workers struggling to cope.
The TUC, which is organising the event, said workers were suffering the “longest and harshest” squeeze on their earnings in modern history.
Its research suggested that workers have lost almost £20,000 since 2008 because pay has not kept pace with inflation.
The TUC said it was the biggest “real wage” loss since 1830, adding that the pay “slump” showed little sign of slowing.
Trade union leaders say wages are not keeping up with rates of inflation, causing many to struggle to make ends meet
General secretary Frances O’Grady said it was “gut-wrenching” to hear how workers were struggling, with no safety net to fall back on.
She said the Conservatives were now the “party of pay cuts”, accusing the Government of turning its back on those who made such “extraordinary sacrifices” by keeping working during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said she had heard a harrowing story of children keeping back part of their school lunch to take home for their evening dinner.
“Prices are sky-rocketing, yet boardroom bonuses are back to bumper levels," Ms O'Grady explained. "Everyone who works for a living deserves to earn a decent living, but UK workers are suffering the longest and harshest squeeze on their earnings in modern history."
She added: “If we don’t get pay rising across the economy, we will just keep lurching from crisis to crisis.
“This cost-of-living emergency has not come out of the blue. It is the result of more than a decade of standstill wages.”
Ms O’Grady accused the Prime Minister of “cynically abandoning” his commitment to a high-wage economy.
She said he and other minister were "treating workers like Oliver Twist by telling them not to dare ask for a decent pay rise".
"The last thing we need right now is for wages to be held down," Ms O'Grady added.
“We cannot be a country where nurses have to use foodbanks to get by.”
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Ministers’ failure to give nursing fair pay – including more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts – is having a devastating impact on their own wellbeing and the safety of care for their patients.
“The cost-of-living crisis has brought this to a head, with too many nursing staff struggling to feed their families or put fuel in their cars.”
Unite leader Sharon Graham said: “Wage restraint? How about calling on the UK’s millionaire bosses to show restraint. In the last year of the pandemic, the UK’s top CEO’s hiked their own wages by an average 29% to £2.6 million.
“Don’t hear anyone in the media saying they’re holding the country to ransom.”
Green Party co-leader, Carla Denyer, said: “We fully support the TUC’s call for an increase in wages, with public sector increases being funded by the Treasury.
“The cost-of-living crisis is actually an income crisis. It is vital that wages keep pace with inflation this year.
“We also need to see a reversing of the real-term wage losses that took place during the Tories’ era of austerity.”