Top bosses have awarded themselves average pay rises of 23% this year! Yes, this is the same cohort of super-rich who are today offering striking workers 5-6% at most!
Accountancy firm, PwC, reports that higher bonuses, due to a bigger-than-expected “bounce back” after Covid, have taken the pay of FTSE100 chief executives up from already incredible pre-pandemic levels of £3.6m in 2018-19, to £3.9m (it’s eye-watering!).
Railway and postal workers who’ve been on strike for pay rises in line with inflation, have so far been offered piecemeal rises, including small one-off, non-pensionable bonuses. In the case of the posties, this amounts to just 3.5%-4% over this year, when RPI for September was already 12.6%!
This, while the cost of essential groceries, including milk, is up by 14.3% compared with last year. So even Ford workers, who’re in the second year of a 2-year deal which tied bosses into paying RPI inflation this year, won’t be able to keep up with real price inflation...
Gas and oil companies are laughing
The worst aspect of this skyrocketing inflation is that its fundamental cause is pure racketeering by the oil and gas companies and the energy giants. The surge in demand once the Covid pandemic ended, was a signal for these chancers to push up their prices. They even artificially cut production and then kept it low, to maximise the effect!
As for the war in Ukraine being responsible - it’s true that the cut in supply by Russia initially pushed up prices, but as has been subsequently shown, it has been possible for Russia’s competitors to ramp up their production. So supply is hardly a problem any more. Production of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (from Qatar, Algeria, the US etc.,) more than filled the gap - in fact LPG suppliers are experiencing a bonanza!
Another point worth making is this - that these producers would want, above all, to retain their new market share. And they thus have an interest in the Ukraine war carrying on as long as possible - until Russia’s oil and gas production is cut off for good. As if that is not bad enough, they would also benefit from a delay in tackling the climate crisis - setting humanity even more firmly on “the highway to hell”, as the UN Secretary General described it.
The Financial Times of 5 November reported that: “US oil producers have raked in more than $200bn in profits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as they cash in on a period of geopolitical turmoil that has shaken up the global energy market and sent prices soaring”.
In the meantime the working classes and poor pay for all of this. These profits do not fall from the sky. They come out of the labour and the hard-earned cash of working people who are paying more and more, for less and less! If the government confiscated these companies’ super-profits (just for one year!) it could, in one fell swoop, manage to alleviate the current crisis!
Yet the fear even of a further windfall tax, has prompted the industry group representing 20 British oil and gas companies (including Shell, which doesn’t pay any tax here at all!) to write a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer threatening that “higher windfall taxes would put at risk the sector’s appetite and financial ability to invest in new projects”! In other words they are threatening (their usual!) blackmail!
It’s only by fighting that we gain ground
Faced with the worsening crisis, rising inflation and interest rates, plus a government which is still playing musical chairs with itself inside Number 10 Downing Street, the working class would surely have everything to gain by upping its ante. That would entail generalising the fight back which started in the summer among some of its sections. And as more and more public sector workers become involved in strikes, this not only becomes more possible, but also more necessary: nurses, for instance, given the nature of their work, require the explicit backing of other workers (and their defiance of the law!)!
But what do we see and hear instead? First of all, a de-escalation by the postal workers’ and railway workers’ union leaders so that they can take part in “intensive talks” thus removing their battalions from the frontline. And second of all, the demand being raised for a “general election”! This is a dead end, since the only result which can come out of this is a Labour government - which has already committed itself to be a better party of business than the Tories.
History tells us that any gains made for the working class, are always made by the working class, on the picket lines and in the streets, using its collective force against the bosses and their politicians. This is the only effective protection against the crisis, indeed, the only way to force the bosses to pay for the recession of their own making, instead of the rest of us.