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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 May 2011

As the cost of living soars...: 'We are going to fight back'!

Cuts in public services, a widening wealth gap and declining living standards for the majority of working and middle class people could lead to an explosion of anger in Britain.

Recently, even Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, warned that the rise in the cost of living could become so great that workers will fight for pay increases.

Meanwhile, supermarket giant Asda reckons an average family saw their disposable income drop by 7.1%, or 13 a week, during April compared with the same month in 2010. Asda says soaring petrol prices and higher train fares mean families are now spending around 10% more on transport compared with 2010, with petrol prices 12.7% higher than in April last year.

Higher rents and heating costs have slashed families' budgets while wages are growing at only around half the level of inflation.

And a new report from the Resolution Foundation predicts that millions of low to middle income families face years of declining living standards and are seeing their chances of owning their own home disappear.

The report also shows that most people's earnings were flatlining well before the banking and financial meltdown in 2008. It says that income levels are expected to fall next year, only returning to 2001 levels in 2015. Meanwhile the 1,000 richest individuals in the UK saw their combined wealth rise last year by 60.2 billion to an unbelievable 396 billion.

With capitalism in crisis, workers can expect an unrelenting assault on their living standards. Only a resolute fightback by working class people, involving coordinated strike action, can reverse this offensive.

A local authority worker in London, a member of the Unison trade union, spoke to the Socialist about the financial pressures on workers and what can be done to protect living standards.

"A common refrain at work these days is 'I've never worked this hard and yet felt so poor'. I've got responsibilities, I've got a child to clothe and feed. I've got to find the money for school trips, etc.

When I go to the bank machine and look at my statement after I've just been paid, it's shocking to see what little I've got to live on for the rest of the month. This is at a time when the housing association is increasing my rent by 50 a month.

Today, management asked us to accept a 2% pay cut. And cuts in my enhanced pay for weekend working, which the council is pushing for, could result in me losing 1,000 a year.

In the last two months there has been a shocking realisation of just what the government's austerity measures really mean for my standard of living.

As a result there is a feeling of generalised anger developing amongst the people I work with and in my local community about working class people's shrinking living standards.

I think the argument of the government that there is no alternative to cuts and pay freezes and that ordinary people should bear the brunt of the financial and economic crisis, is wearing thin. It hasn't escaped the attention of me and my fellow workers that we're getting poorer at a time when the rich are getting richer and that we're meant to passively accept this situation. Well no way!

The trade unions must tap into this mood of anger and organise strike action now to fight these seemingly never ending attacks on our living standards. It's entirely possible that the trade unions can build upon the mood that we saw on the massive 26 March TUC anti-cuts demo with united strike action over the rising cost of living."

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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In The Socialist 25 May 2011:


What we think

Weak and unpopular coalition can be defeated


Anti-cuts campaigning

National shop stewards conference - Unite to stop the cuts

As the cost of living soars...: 'We are going to fight back'!

An offer we must refuse

Why Liverpool needs a needs budget

Showing an alternative to cuts in Dorset


Defending the NHS

Battling to defend the NHS

NHS demo in London needs to be a step towards united national strike action

Unison leaders failing to adopt the demands of health workers

Challenging Tories' plans to kill our health service


Socialist Party workplace news

PCS conference: developing strategies for struggle

UCU facing battles on all fronts

Southampton city council workers strike

Three day strike to stop redundancies at Sheffield College

Firefighters discuss strategy to fight cuts

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

"We are London Met Uni, not EasyMet"

Atos Origin - profiting from pain

'Slutwalk' protests: Women reject sexism

Slave labour schemes must be resisted


Reviews and comments

Leadership failed print workers in vital battle

Review: The street that cut everything


Socialist Party news and analysis

McNulty's railway report: not 'value for money'!

Care homes privatisation hits the elderly

News in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Eyewitness report: Mass youth protests in Spain

Ireland: 'Reclaim the unions'

Greece: Resist bosses' agenda and the far right


 

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