ON the day that up to 400,000 health workers in England came out on a second four-hour strike over the refusal of the government to give even the derisory 1% pay rise recommended by the Pay Review Body, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation issued another report exposing the Dickension poverty levels millions of workers are being plunged into.
This report shows that in the last ten years wage levels amongst the poorest paid workers has dropped by 10% in real terms creating a situation where half of those families who exist in a state of defined poverty have working members.
The report places the responsibility for this dramatic increase in the numbers of the so-called ‘working poor’ to the massive extension of zero hours contracts and part-time working, with 1.4 million now forced to exist on these contracts.
To this figure is added the number of those workers unable to find full-time jobs opting for self-employment – the report finds that the self-employed earn on average 13% less than they did five years ago.
The employers have gratefully grasped the opportunity to undermine full-time workers by transforming them into part-timers or zero-hour contractors.
While working class families face poverty levels unseen since the 19th century, where evictions by private landlords of workers unable to afford their sky high rents is at an all time high, and over a million people are forced to rely on the charity of food banks – an increase of 38% over last year – Osborne and the Tories are calling for even greater austerity measures, even more cuts in order to pay off the national debt.
With the Tories promising ‘permanent austerity’ as the only way to cut the debt run up to bail out the bankrupt system, what is the position of the leadership of the trade unions to this crisis facing the entire working class?
Responding to the Foundation’s report, TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said: ‘This report highlights once again how ordinary working people are being excluded from the recovery and are becoming poorer in real terms.’
She added: ‘Without more affordable housing and quality employment opportunities, living standards for the many will continue their steep decline.’
Last Friday, O’Grady issued another statement on low pay in which she lamented: ‘The bad news on wages just keeps on coming. The government should be putting a wages recovery at the heart of its economic strategy to make sure more businesses give Britain the pay rise that workers deserve and need.’
No mention from O’Grady about the TUC’s policy agreed at this years’ conference to fight for a £10 an hour living wage for all low paid workers, and of course, no reference to its long standing policy decision to actively consider the feasibility of a general strike to defeat the austerity onslaught of the Tory-led coalition.
There is absolutely no call for a fight against this criminal pauperisation of millions of workers and their families, just a pathetic appeal to the government to give the workers what they deserve.
As far as the government and the capitalist class they represent are concerned, the working class deserves absolutely nothing, for that is all this bankrupt capitalist system can afford today.
All the TUC can offer to workers is the hope that a Labour government would behave differently, completely ignoring Labour’s pledge to adopt all the austerity measures of the Tories and even go further in welfare cuts, making it clear that whatever bourgeois party or coalition forms a government it will have as its only priority ‘saving’ capitalism at the expense of the working class.
There is only one way forward for the working class and youth today, and that is to organise a general strike to kick out this government and bring in a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and the bankers, overthrow this crisis-ridden capitalist system and replace it with a planned socialist economy.
This means building a new, revolutionary leadership in the trade unions to replace those leaders who refuse to fight, it means building the WRP.