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  • Frances O’Grady to warn in final speech to TUC Congress that working people have “been pushed to breaking point” by the “longest squeeze” on earnings in modern history  

  • O’Grady to issue challenge to Truss: “we will see you in court” if the government launches new anti-trade union legislation   

  • The Conservatives are “toxic” for the economy, O’Grady to say  

  • NEW analysis shows workers on course for £4,000 real wage drop over the next three years  

  • Keynote speech to be delivered at 11am   

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will warn on Tuesday that the UK is on course for “two decades of lost living standards”.  

In her final address as head of the union federation, Frances O’Grady will highlight that working families “have been pushed to breaking point” after the “longest wage squeeze since Napoleonic times”.  

Addressing union members from across the country, Frances will say:  

“We need an economy that rewards work - not wealth.   

“But under the Conservatives working people have got poorer, while shareholders have got richer.  

“We’re in the longest squeeze on real wages since Napoleonic times. The worst in modern history.  

“And if ministers and employers keep hammering pay packets at the same rate, UK workers are on course to suffer two decades – twenty years - of lost living standards.  

“Over the next three years alone real earnings are set to fall by another £4,000.  

“We have got to stop the rot. Families cannot afford to tighten their belts anymore -they are at breaking point.”  

Warning the government not to attack the right to strike, Frances will say:   

“Just when the citizens of this country are in despair, when key workers’ kids are going to school with holes in their shoes, and young families are worried sick about taking on a mortgage - Liz Truss’ top priority is to make it harder for workers to win better pay.  

“It’s a cynical effort to distract from the mess this government has caused.   

“If ministers cross the road to pick a fight with us then we will meet them halfway.  

“Today I give ministers notice. We’ve already taken legal counsel and we know you’re in breach of international law and trade deals that enshrine labour standards.  

“So read my lips: we will see you in court.”  

Slamming the Conservatives’ economic approach, Frances will say:  

“The PM may have dumped Kwasi Kwarteng. And is now hiding behind Jeremy Hunt.  

“But she can’t duck this: We can’t trust her government with our economy.  

“The Tories are now toxic. It’s time for change.  

“We know who creates real wealth in this country.  

“It’s not Hedge Fund managers who made a mint by betting on the pound crashing. Or the former Chancellor who popped champagne corks with them afterwards. 

“It’s the honest, hard-working people of this country.  

“Downing Street says we need to focus on growth, not wealth redistribution.  

“Well, they have no plan for growth. But they do have one for redistribution.  

“They are lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses and driving down public servants’ pay.”  

The TUC estimates that real wages will not recover until their 2008 level until 2028. This will result in workers losing a further £4,000, on average, over the next three years as a result of inflation outstripping wage growth.  

The union body calculates that the average worker will have lost a total of £24,000 in real earnings since the 2008 financial crash as a result of pay not keeping pace with inflation.  

Editors note

Methodology on wage analysis:   

Comparisons of the duration and extent of the pay crisis are based on historic data from the Bank of England, ONS Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), and Bank of England quarterly forecasts for pay and inflation (see below).  For consistency with historic data and forecasts, AWE total pay figures are used. Consumer price indices are used to adjust for price. Cash comparisons are set in 2022 prices, again based on Bank of England forecasts.  

The loss of pay for the average worker is based on the cumulative shortfall against the level of pay at the start of the crisis in 2008 through to 2022, calculated in 2022 prices. The additional loss over 2023-2025 is again based on the Bank of England’s forecasts.  

The expected duration of the pay crisis is based on the Bank’s forecasts, with the forecast for real wage growth of 1.25% in 2025 used for all subsequent years. However, because the Truss energy price guarantee was announced after the Bank of England’s latest (August) forecast, the overall duration of the crisis and the additional loss over 2023-25 is judged (likely conservatively) to be in-between the August and May forecasts.   

This brings pay growth back to its 2008 level in 2008 in 2028. Note while real pay rises above the pre-crisis level in 2021 this is wholly artificial, following as a result of distortions to the AWE figures caused by the pandemic, lockdown and associated one-off changes in the labour market.  

For a very long historic comparison, the present pay crisis can be compared with all crises over the past 200 years – again using Bank of England historical data. The longest crisis on these records was 24 years over 1798-1822. Using the above projection the present crisis comes in a little shorter. Though it should be noted that the pay crisis is as a matter of routine projected to end by the Bank of England and Office for Budget Responsibility, but so far has not done so.      

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.    


TUC press office    
020 7467 1248    

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