We need wages which keep up with costs

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
9 June 2008

Last Friday price of a barrel of crude oil went up to the record high of nearly $140. And whether it should be so directly linked or not, the price of petrol at the pump has been jumping up accordingly, as never before. So this last weekend the average price of a litre of unleaded had shot up to £1.16 and diesel to £1.30!

Truck drivers are protesting in Spain this week and a protest is scheduled here too. For once this is being reported with some sympathy, in contrast to how the fuel blockaders were lambasted 8 years ago, including by the TUC.

Then this Monday, it was reported that figures for so-called "factory gate" inflation showed an increase to 8.9%, the highest since comparable records began in 1986. This figure reflects the increase in prices of manufactured goods charged by producers. But by "producers" they do not mean the people who actually make the goods, that is the workers, but the owners of the factories. These owners explain that they are just passing on the higher cost of raw materials and fuel, to retailers, who in turn pass it on to consumers...

But there is one component in the cost of the goods which has not gone up! That is, the cost of the labour: workers' wages! Yet workers must pay the ever-rocketing cost of food, petrol, diesel, gas and electricity and public transport as well as the higher cost of manufactured goods!

So when are these increases going to be reflected in proportional pay rises? The sick joke is that when the bosses negotiate over pay they choose to use either the RPI (4.2%) or the government's chosen measure, the consumer price index which was only 3% last month!

On this basis, public sector workers were offered between 1.9% and 2.6%! Whether the public sector union leaders carry out their threat joining together for a "summer of strikes" over such pay cuts, remains to be seen. The workers involved can surely not do otherwise.

We all need to have wages which slide up with prices and which therefore cover the ever-increasing cost of living. After all, if we need to pay more to live, our labour must become more expensive. It is as simple as that.

The bosses have already put the prices up of the commodities they sell. But they haven't paid for the increase in the price of labour. This means they intend to make even higher profits for themselves out of this crisis and at workers' expense, when workers can least afford it. There is absolutely no reason to let them get away with it.

So yes, there should be a summer of strikes - and a winter of strikes too, if need be. But if, for once, we actually organise ourselves to strike all together, across all sectors, public and private, the pay rises we need could be achieved in a very short time!