It was announced on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 5.1% in the 12 months to November 2021, up from 4.2% in October - something which forecasters had said was only meant to happen next spring.
We are told that high transport costs were the biggest contributor to this: petrol prices rose by 7.2p a litre between October and November. This was the biggest monthly increase since 1990, when the ONS first started keeping records! Not that workers did not already know it: they are paying over £10-20 more per tank depending on the size of vehicle they drive...
But this also means that the Retail Prices Index, or RPI, which is closer to the real price rises that workers experience is already over 6%. And that wage rises, even of 5% (given by Ford Britain, for instance) still don't provide a pay rise in “real” terms.
All of this means that the working class is confronting the biggest increase in the cost of living in a decade!
And matters are only likely to be made a lot worse by the economic effects of Omicron. Not only because of more lay-offs, or working from home, (not an option for key workers), but because for many on casual contracts, when they get sick there is either no sick pay at all, or SSP at just £96.35/week. The government has flatly refused to raise sick pay to the level of a living wage nor ensure that every single worker who has to self-isolate can easily obtain even the current pittance, without having to jump through impossible bureaucratic hoops!
So there is no time to waste: the working class must get ready to organise a strong collective fight back on pay, including sick pay, come the New Year. And this cannot be left to union leaders who have yes, been organising the "odd" strike, but never in a way which unites all our forces for maximum impact. Because maximum impact is what is needed.