by Geraint Thomas, supermarket worker
None of my workmates at the major supermarket I work for would be surprised by the latest figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank. While employment has officially returned to its pre-crisis level, real-term hourly wages are down on average 4.7% compared with before this financial crash. ‘Shocking!’ says the press.
But for working class people this just confirmed what we already knew. Many of us have been hit by below inflation pay ‘rises’ year on year, particularly harshly affecting those of us in our 20s who’ve lost a staggering 9% from our pay.
At my work, overtime’s hard to come by, to say the least. Meanwhile the workload itself doesn’t get any lighter. One colleague is using a pedometer and has been clocking an average of 10-15km a day!
When we get home the troubles don’t stop: rent, bills and food costs make even single living a struggle, never mind supporting a family. And that’s those of us ‘lucky’ enough to have hours on our contracts. For the millions on zero-hour contracts the winter is often the time when work stops and you’ve got no chance of paying your bills.
A massive chunk of the fall in wages is down to younger workers having no option but insecure, low-hours work, with pay at or barely above the pathetic minimum wage. 20% of jobs created in the first three months of 2014 were this type of work, compared to 4.5% in 2013.
Yet there is a way forward. In the USA low-waged workers have been rising up in spectacular fashion for better pay, terms and conditions - striking and demonstrating for $15 an hour and trade union rights. There’s no reason why workers here can’t do the same to fight for a minimum wage of £10 an hour. Bosses like to pretend that there’s nothing we can do but workers have the power to bring the CEOs to their knees.
The Socialist Party calls for all workers, especially young workers, to join trade unions and join the fight to improve our lives. Join a workplace union, or even work to set one up. If your union’s pally with management, help fight to change it. Fight for better breaks, safety at work, and higher wages. Only by struggling together can we win.