Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 14 April 2014

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
14 April 2014

Politicians are still wary of opening their mouths too much, in the run-up to the May elections - for fear of discrediting themselves even more. Instead, over the past week, they have been bombarding us with news and statistics which are meant to create what the newspapers call a "feel good factor".

So, Osborne was quick to take the credit when the International Monetary Fund announced that the British economy is, after all, the "best performing" among the industrialised countries. Never mind that this goes against Osborne's own repeated claims that the economy needs to be more "competitive" and therefore workers should agree to more cuts in their real wages and conditions!

Nor does this "best performing" boast mean that the British economy has suddenly become more healthy. Isn't household indebtedness at a record level again? Aren't the banks still on a permanent public-funded drip-feed, which has just been extended by Osborne's promise to offer them an open-ended guarantee covering all export loans?

As to Britain's economic "growth", what does it actually mean? In fact, it is largely due to a growing housing bubble, increasingly similar to the one which imploded in 2008, which is a real bounty for property developers, professional landlords and the construction industry. But for the rest of us, it only means inflated rents and higher mortgage payments. Hardly good news for working class households!

The illusive wage "catch-up"

This week, the latest estimates for inflation compared with wage increases was published - figures which should be far more significant for the rest of us. But of course, they are just estimates, based neither on what we really pay at the supermarket, nor on what's really on our pay slips - but on statistical samples which, by definition, give a distorted view of the reality. And naturally, this distortion can only be expected to show Osborne's policies in the best possible light!

So we're told that, for the first time since 2009, wages have increased more than prices - wages by 1.7% compared to a current CPI inflation of 1.6%!! Not much to write home about, even if these percentages did represent a true reflection of reality.

But the fact that they are also massaged, makes them even less meaningful. According to the calculations of economists, the 1.6% CPI inflation figure rises to 2.5% (RPI), if housing costs are taken into account - meaning that wages are still lagging far behind prices. And even that 2.5% must be a vast understatement, judging from the fact that housing prices rose by 9% in the country as a whole over the past year and by almost 18% in London!

As to the wage index figure, it takes no account of actual earnings - only of wage rates, regardless of the numbers of actual hours worked. So the official wage index can increase despite an increase in the number of part-timers and a fall in average earnings! Nor does this index take into account the earnings of the growing numbers of low-paid self-employed. But it does take into account top salaries - like those of City professionals whose salaries have increased by 20% over the past year, according to a recent report!

Bringing the parasites to account

If there is any economic "growth", it is almost exclusively in company profits and shareholders' dividends. Both have increased handsomely over the past year, showing their growing parasitism on society. Because most of this kind of growth has been subsidised by public funds.

However, there is another kind of growth which ministers refrain from boasting about. The fact that in their "best performing" economy, the number living officially below the poverty line has grown to 13 million - and more than half of these 13 million are actually in work. In fact for the first time the number of official "poor" in work outnumbers the poor out of work! Nor do they acknowledge that, in the last 12 months, one million people had to go to a food bank in order to get enough to eat.

The government hails the fact that "employment" is at a record level and still growing, but it doesn't like to admit that a large part of this growth is due to over-50s turning themselves into under-paid, self-employed in order to survive, while the explosion of "zero-hours" contracts deprives a growing section of the working class of any employment protection.

Whatever the capitalists and their politicians may claim, their economic "growth" does not reflect an economic recovery of their crisis-ridden system. It reflects the aggravation of the conditions and exploitation of the working class. And this has to be stopped! So the politicians can forget about their "feel good" factor. We have every reason to feel angry - and to bring them and the capitalists behind them, to account, by reclaiming the ground lost and making them pay the full cost for it!