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Building working class power

How to address class inequality today
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Key findings

The TUC was founded to advance the “general interests of the working classes”, and that remains our core mission today. We need stronger rights for workers to negotiate better pay and conditions, a plan to restore our public services, and new laws to end class discrimination.

TUC research shows that:

  • Working class families have been hit hard by the pay crisis that started after the financial crash: Seven million employees in working class jobs have seen their pay flatline over the decade, while the highest earners have seen pay rises.
  • A decade of austerity has had a disproportionate impact on working class families: for families on less than average earnings, cuts to public services over the last decade have been worth over five percent of their annual incomes – compared to less than one per cent for above average earners.
  • Discrimination based on class background is still prevalent in the workplace today: TUC analysis shows that graduates with parents in ‘professional and routine’ jobs are more than twice as likely as working-class graduates to start on a high salary, no matter what degree level they attain.

The TUC is calling for new legislation to:

  • Make discrimination on the basis of class unlawful, just like race, sex and disability.
  • Introduce a legal duty on public bodies to make tackling all forms of inequality a priority.
  • Make it compulsory for employers to report their class pay gaps.

Download full report (PDF)

Introduction and summary

The Trades Union Congress was founded to advance the “general interests of the working classes”, and that remains our core mission today.

Working class jobs have changed with the shift to a service economy. Those earning less than the average wage are most likely to work in retail or as a care worker. And today’s working class is more diverse, with those earning below average more likely to be female or from a Black and minority ethnic background than those in the highest paid jobs.

But the working-class experience of poor pay, long hours, and class discrimination that the union movement has fought against remains all too common in today’s UK. And working-class households have been hit hardest by public service cuts.

TUC research shows that:

  • Working class families have been hit hard by the pay crisis that started after the financial crash :Seven million employees in working class jobs have seen their pay flatline over the decade, while the highest earners have seen pay rises.
  • A decade of austerity has had a disproportionate impact on working class families :for families on less than average earnings, cuts to public services over the last decade have been worth over five percent of their annual incomes – compared to less than one per cent for above average earners.
  • Discrimination based on class background is still prevalent in the workplace today :TUC analysis shows that graduates with parents in ‘professional and routine’ jobs are more than twice as likely as working-class graduates to start on a high salary, no matter what degree level they attain.

Trade Unions have been vital to improving working class prospects. We’ve fought for the right to speak up in the workplace and negotiate better terms and conditions, and we know that where trade unions are strong, inequality falls. Strengthening our own movement, and our ability to negotiate for working people, is at the heart of trade unions’ mission to protect working class interests.

We need government action too. Government must reverse years of austerity and fund the public services that working class families rely on.

And after years of prejudice based on social background, it is clear that working class people won’t get a fair chance at work unless government puts in place a framework to tackle class discrimination. The TUC is therefore calling for new legislation to:

  • Make discrimination on the basis of class unlawful, just like race, sex and disability.
  • Introduce a legal duty on public bodies to make tackling all forms of inequality a priority.
  • Make it compulsory for employers to report their class pay gaps.