Tens of thousands protest against wage cuts in biggest march against Tory austerity for years

Jeremy Corbyn pledges that a future Labour government will hand workers 'more power' to fight for higher pay

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 12 May 2018 15:36 BST
The TUC-led demonstration against the wage squeeze: 'People have been very patient but they are now demanding a new deal'
The TUC-led demonstration against the wage squeeze: 'People have been very patient but they are now demanding a new deal'

Tens of thousands of people have protested against the worst wage squeeze in modern history – warning there will be no relief for workers until 2025.

The demonstrators called for a minimum wage boost to £10 an hour, a ban on zero-hours contracts and higher funding for public services, in the biggest rally against austerity for many years.

It was organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which said wages had lagged behind inflation since 2008 and are now worth £24 a week less in real terms.

Its study warned that pay was not on course to recover until 2025, by which time workers would have lost £18,500 over nearly two decades of pain.

Jeremy Corbyn addressed the demonstration, in central London, pledging that a future Labour government would hand workers “more power” to fight for higher pay.

“Our whole movement exists to challenge the powerful and stand up for the powerless,” the Labour leader said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to demonstrators at the TUC rally

“We want to see workers across whole sectors, not just individual employers, get to bargain together to get the best deal for the workforce in their industry.

“Why should bar staff and waiters not be able to organise and support each other like London bus drivers can? It's time for a fundamental shift in power in our country – from the few to the many.”

Workers involved in current disputes – including those at restaurant chains TGI Fridays and McDonald's joined the march, along with nurses, ambulance crews, postmen, teachers, civil servants and cleaners.

The TUC research compared the current wages squeeze with every major earnings crisis over the past 200 years.

Thousnds of people marched through central London demanding improvements in public services and better pay

It found workers were suffering the biggest relative real wage loss since the Napoleonic Wars. Even after the Great Depression and the Second World War, real wages recovered more quickly – in 10 years and seven years respectively.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “There is a new mood in the country. People have been very patient but they are now demanding a new deal.

“Millions of kids are growing up in poverty despite having parents in work. Mums and dads are skipping meals and turning to dodgy lenders to make ends meet.”

Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said it was the most important demonstration for 50 years.

However, a Treasury spokesperson said wages are forecast to grow faster than inflation in each of the next five years and government policies were helping British workers.

“Our National Living Wage has boosted pay for the lowest earners by over £2,000 already, we are cutting taxes to help people keep more of what they earn,” they said.

The TUC said its figures are based on annual average weekly earnings for total pay, adjusted with the CPI measure of inflation, which are then compared with back data published by the Bank of England.

The predictions are based on independent forecasts to 2022, and then a projection to 2025 using the average forecast growth rate.

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