Unite, the country’s largest union, warned that David Cameron’s speech in Runcorn today (Monday 22 June), is short on detail but will create a great deal of anxiety among working people.
The warning comes as the government confirmed at the weekend that it was pressing ahead with a further £12bn axe in benefits.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today the prime minister just confirmed that this is the government that kicks low waged workers, despite his rhetoric, when he ought to be offering them a helping hand.
“With £1,400 set to be wiped off the incomes of the poorest paid thanks to Osborne’s cuts mania that Cameron didn’t choose to focus on, people will be worried sick about how they will cope with this latest government attack.
“The government asserts that people struggling on low wages can be helped, but offers no action to increase wages, creating more uncertainty for millions of people who simply need to know what their income will be week to week.
“The prime minister says that he wants people to be supported by better paid work – which is an ambition we all have but the reality is that austerity economics have built a low pay, insecure jobs market where nearly 700,000 are on zero hours contracts and many thousands more on short-hours contracts.
“The consequence is that desperate working people will scrabble for more hours at work or try to juggle two or three jobs. Heaven help anybody on low pay who is trying to raise a family for this is most definitely a government not on your side.
“If Cameron was serious about creating a fairer society he would do one thing now – he would raise the minimum wage by £1.50 per hour. We know that this would lift people off the breadline, it would make sure big business pays its way, it would shave billions off the benefit bill and it would stimulate local economies and create 30,000 jobs.
“Instead, by continuing with cuts the prime minister has chosen to show he is tough by attacking working people and their families. This is a very dark day for equality in Britain.”
Unite urged the prime minister to remember that those in work and on benefits outnumber those out of work, a reflection of the low wage economy created by austerity economics. The union also points out that £11 billion of tax payers’ money goes to subsidise highly profitable companies to top up low paid workers’ wages.
In the big four supermarkets alone - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons - their workforces’ wages topped up by £1 billion.
Additionally, wages are still £30-a-week short of what they were in real terms in 2007, according to the think tank, the Resolution Foundation. In many jobs, full pay recovery is unlikely to occur before the end of the decade.
There is also mounting concern that many big name employers may be among those who do not pay their full tax obligations. It has previously been estimated that £25bn is lost each year in tax avoidance.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.