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Our economy isn’t delivering for working families

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Working families across the North East are struggling to survive and child poverty is continuing to increase. But there is plenty the next government can do to fix this.

Your money’s run out. The kids need their dinner. But you need more cash on the card to keep the heating on. And payday is still a week away.

For many families in the North East, that’s how the month ends. They must be wondering when the tough times will ever be over.

Worries about money are a big deal for working families. And if you can barely stretch to cover everyday essentials, Christmas becomes a source of stress, instead of the family celebration it should be.

North East workers are £6,400 worse off than if real wages had stayed at 2008 levels. It’s why we are seeing appalling rises in child poverty in our region.

The struggle to survive has meant more families getting into to debt. Unsecured household debt has increased by a third since 2010 to new record average of £14,200 per UK household.

Personal insolvencies (people going bankrupt) are up too. By September this year, over 93,000 people were declared insolvent, leaving us heading for a worse annual total than 2018.

During the recession, workers accepted that their pay may be frozen, or their hours cut. But when the economy recovered, they didn’t get their share. Many employers who could afford to pay their staff more, didn’t. Dividends rose. Profits rose. But not pay.

This week is Living Wage Week and the TUC is calling for more businesses and organisations to sign up as Living Wage employers.

Fair pay is also one of our key campaign asks in the election. We want to see proposals from all the parties to get wages rising. And for all working people – not just a few at the top.

Collective bargaining, led by trade unions, is the most effective way to get higher pay for most workers. So we want the next government to enhance the positive role played by trade unions in bargaining for fair wages and conditions.

This will mean new laws to allow greater access to trade unions for workers. Unions need rights to enter workplaces, and workers need enhanced rights to representation.

More funding is needed in parts of the public sector where low pay is a problem, such as social care. It’s vital work, but low pay and poor enforcement of the minimum wage is a major problem.

The next government must do more to extend its industrial strategy programme to areas of the foundational economy like care work and other services. We need government and business working together to raise the standards of employment and pay, and to improve productivity.

We need the minimum wage to go up to at least £10. This would benefit our businesses in the North East, as their customers will have more money to spend.

And minimum wage pay increases are not only spent once. Every extra pound multiplies its worth as it journeys through the economy – from business to worker, from worker to business, and round again.

The next government should put the minimum wage up to £10 as soon as possible so these wider benefits can ripple through our economy.