Beth Farhat: Countdown to the General Election 2015

Regional secretary of the TUC says declining living standards will be an important issue in the General Election

Iain Buist Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC

People’s living standards are under attack, people earn £40 a week less in real terms than they did in 2008.

If wages had risen in line with economic growth workers would be £102 a week better off than they are now.

We’re told the living standards crisis is over, but across the public sector and in much of the private sector pay still losing a little of its value every month.

Almost five million people are paid less than the living wage. Half of people in poverty are in working households. But at the top, boardroom pay continues to rise far above inflation.

In May 2013 the TUC set out its campaign plan. It brought our priorities together into five clear streams of work that were embraced and endorsed by the whole of the trade union movement.

In the weeks leading up to the election I will look back on our achievements and highlight our priorities beyond the election. Iin relation to fair pay and the living wage we have;

* put the decline in living standards at the centre of national political debate with strong regional media support;

* held more than 35 regional events and campaign opportunities during Fair Pay Fortnight and Living Wage Week;

* backed unions taking action for better pay and decent pensions;

* forced all political parties to call for real increases in the minimum wage, won growing support for the living wage and made the case for fair pay for all;

* exposed the boardroom greed of top executive soar-away pay;

* won the public argument for new wages councils and collective bargaining so workers get a fairer share of the pay cake.

The Northern TUC has been campaigning hard to ensure that pay and living standards remain high on the regional and national agenda in the lead up to the general election.

We have coordinated successful events and campaign days during TUC Fair Pay Fortnight and Living Wage Week across 2013/14 including a strong regional presence at the national TUC pay demonstration on the October 18. We have been at the forefront of union campaigning on pay issues, focusing in particular on the need for workers across the economy to benefit from stronger pay growth in the months ahead if the recovery is to be a more equitable one.

Over 160 people attended the Northern TUC’s Wage Summits, the events brought together public, private, voluntary and community organisations and trade unions to collectively discuss and debate the case for a living wage.

Beyond the election we will:

* continue to expose Britain’s living standards crisis;

* publish new analysis of excessive executive pay;

* demand a higher national minimum wage, a spread of the living wage and fair and equal pay;

* show how migrant workers aren’t the cause of the problem – low pay and exploitation are;

* help unions fight for an end to public sector pay freezes and caps.

We will campaign for a real recovery that delivers decent pay for all – Britain needs a pay rise.

Beth Farhat – Northern TUC Regional Secretary

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