LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Hundreds and thousands of people take to the streets of London protesting the government’s failure to address the rising cost of living.
The march continued from Portland Place to Parliament Square for a rally that included TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, as well as other speakers.
When O’Grady offered an address to the crowd, she was greeted with cheers and applause.
Demonstrators held placards that read “end fuel poverty, insulate homes now” and “cut war not welfare.”
A teacher at a Sunderland sixth-form college, Andy Lewis was among those who attended the event. Teachers had experienced a real-terms wage drop of £10,000 since Cameron and austerity, he claimed.
They were getting calls from teaching assistants who couldn’t afford to come in. They had received word from administrative staff that they couldn’t afford the cost of transportation to get in, he said.
His wife had a friend who was a headteacher, and she laid off seven people last week due to the rising cost of living. It was not just about receiving a raise; it was also about the consequences for children, he added.
Niamh, a 24-year-old rom Highbury, who works for the local government, said she chose to come after witnessing the impact of benefit cuts personally at work.
She worked in the local government, and they dealt with a lot of residents. They could see that the demand for assistance had risen. However, due to cutbacks in government funding, they were left with only very limited choices to assist people.
Their benefit system was in shambles. What they really needed was for benefits like housing allowance and the benefits cap to be increased. People with children who had recently had a child had told them that they didn’t know how they would be able to buy food and pay rent. It was a startling contrast, she said.
According to the TUC, there is “harrowing” evidence of the crisis’ impact on families, with employees facing the “longest and hardest” wage pressure in modern history. O’Grady mentioned that she has heard of students saving a portion of their school lunch to take home for dinner.
Prices were soaring, yet boardroom bonuses had returned to bumper levels, she remarked. Everyone who works for a living deserved to be paid a reasonable wage, yet UK workers were facing the longest and most severe wage pressure in modern history.
They would just keep lurching from crisis to crisis if they didn’t get pay growing across the economy. That cost-of-living crisis did not appear out of nowhere. It was the outcome of over a decade of wage stagnation, she added.
According to the TUC, workers have lost about £20,000 in cumulative earnings since the year 2008 as a result of pay not keeping up with inflation, the largest loss of “real wages” since the 1830s.
Hearing how people were struggling was “gut wrenching,” said O’Grady, who added that there wasn’t any safety net to fall back on and that the salary downturn was showing no signs of easing.
She told PA Media that the Conservatives had become the “party of pay cutbacks,” accusing the government of abandoning individuals who had made great sacrifices by working through the Covid crisis.
She stated that Boris Johnson was “cynically abandoning” his commitment to a high-wage economy.
He and the other ministers were treating workers like Oliver Twist, telling them not to dare to ask for a decent raise, she claimed. Right now, the last thing they needed was for salaries to be held down.
They couldn’t have a country where nurses were forced to rely on food banks to make ends meet, she added.