Five questions answered on the latest ONS figures which show wages rising below inflation

Was there any good news from the figures?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released figures today which show earnings have risen below the rate of inflation for a fifth year running. We answer five questions on ONS’s latest figures.

For the financial year ending April 2013 what amount has pre-tax pay reached?

The ONS said pre-tax pay reached £27,000 a year, an increase of 2.1 per cent over 2012.

Inflation over the same period, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), was 2.4 per cent.

This is in stark contrast to the ten years before 2008 when earnings increased faster than inflation, providing a real increase in living standards.

Was there any good news from the figures?

Yes, average weekly earnings in 2012/13 increased by the largest amount since 2008. The ONS said the median weekly income for full-time employees was £517, a rise of 2.2 per cent.

Part-time pay also rose by 3.1 per cent over the year, outpacing inflation.

What about the gender pay gap?

The gap between men's and women's earnings increased to 10 per cent, this is up from 9.5 per cent in 2012.

This is the first time men's earnings have risen faster than women's.

Which professions are doing best?

Farmers did best, with their pay increasing by 22 per cent, followed closely by undertakers whose earnings rose by 20 per cent.

What have the experts had to say about these latest figures?

"This year has seen a shock rise in the gender pay gap after years of slow, steady progress," said Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC told the BBC.

"Ministers should be ashamed of presiding over this latest dismal record on pay.”

Wages have risen below inflation for the 5th year running. Photograph: Getty Images.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.