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21 June 2022

How the living standards crisis is driving strike action

Public sector wages are 4.4 per cent lower in real terms than in 2010.

By Nick Ferris

Boris Johnson has condemned the railway strikes that begin today (21 June), and which will be the biggest in more than 30 years, as “so wrong and so unnecessary”.

Polls show significant support among sections of the British public, however, and analysis of wage data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) helps to explain why there is growing anger among workers over pay, one of the main conditions behind the strikes this week organised by the RMT union. Since 2010 private sector wages have risen by 4.3 per cent, when adjusted for inflation, while public sector wages have fallen by 4.4 per cent.

The cost-of-living crisis, and the highest inflation rate for 40 years (9 per cent at present), is exacerbating the impact of long-term wage depression.

Public sector workers including doctors, nurses and teachers have warned that they may also take industrial action. The Criminal Bar Association, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has voted to go on strike next week over cuts to legal aid funding. 

“Every worker in Britain deserves a pay rise that reflects the cost-of-living crisis,” the RMT said. "All working people should have the benefit of good negotiated terms, conditions, working practices and occupational pensions that will ensure their living standards in retirement.”

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[See also: Blaming Labour for the rail strikes could backfire on the government]

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