This Saturday, I’ll be proud to march through London with tens of thousands of working people, from Yorkshire and the Humber and from all over the country. We’re marching for a new deal for working people. For the idea that everyone deserves a great job and decent conditions at work. And to make sure that everyone in work can provide a decent life for themselves and their family.
It doesn’t sound like much to ask. But in today’s Britain, millions of working people are struggling to make ends meet, or even to put food on the table for their children.
Ten years after the crash, ordinary people are still paying the price for a financial crisis they didn’t create. In Yorkshire and the Humber, the average worker is £46 a week worse off than they were in 2008.
Hard-working public servants haven’t had a proper pay rise for eight years. And on current projections, working people’s pay won’t recover for another seven years.
At the same time, bad bosses are finding new ways to exploit their staff.
Three million workers in the UK are stuck on zero-hours contracts, in agency work or in low-paid self-employment, including over 270,000 in Yorkshire and the Humber. Insecure work is becoming so normal that many young workers have never known anything different.
How else do you explain the huge growth in unpaid trial shifts? Or the fact that more than half (58 per cent) of young mums and dads don’t know their rights at work?
Dodgy employers claim that insecure workers like the ‘flexibility’, but we’re not buying it.
Paying rent and bills is a nightmare when you don’t know what hours you’ll have from one week to the next. And planning childcare is impossible when you’re constantly at the beck and call of employers.
The vast majority of zero-hours workers want guaranteed hours, but over 50 per cent have had a shift cancelled at short notice. That can’t be right.
Years of falling pay and rising job insecurity have come at a terrible human cost.
TUC research published this week shows that 3.1 million children with working parents are set to be in poverty this year – an increase of one million since 2010. In Yorkshire and the Humber alone, more than 270,000 children in working households are now living in poverty.
That means that working mums and dads are skipping meals to make ends meet. They’re leaving the heat off when it’s cold, turning to the pawn shop or to dodgy payday lenders to keep their heads above water. Some of them face losing their homes and becoming homeless.
When I speak to teachers, they tell me that too many children are coming to school hungry because there’s no money for breakfast at home.
What this tells us is that the poorest and the most vulnerable have been hit hardest by years of falling incomes, public sector pay restrictions and benefit cuts.
Our public services have taken a hammering too. As we mark the 70th anniversary of our NHS, it’s devastating to hear about people dying on waiting lists for treatment, or in ambulances parked outside the doors of full hospitals. Dedicated staff are doing all they can to keep the show on the road, but goodwill can only go so far.
NHS funding is “flatlining” at a time of record patient demand. The winter crisis has turned into an eternal crisis.
The problem stretches far beyond the NHS too. From schools to local councils to police services to social care – the vital services we depend on are in meltdown.
This isn’t how modern Britain should work. So on Saturday, people from across Yorkshire and the Humber will board coaches and trains and travel down to London to march through the capital.
Our message to the Government is clear.
We want the minimum wage to get to £10 as quickly as possible and for more support to families on low wages, so that no child has to grow up in poverty – in Yorkshire and the Humber or anywhere else.
We’re calling on Ministers to get pay rising and the economy growing, by creating great jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber and every part of the UK. The Government keeps boasting about its new industrial strategy. Let’s see some evidence of it. And let’s get a proper crackdown on bad working practices like zero-hours contracts.
And we’re demanding public services that are brilliant, funded properly and free at the point of use.
Nurses, teachers and other public servants need more resources to do their jobs, not pats on the back.
If we all raise our voices together, we are powerful. We can change things. And we can win new deal for working people.
So see you in London on Saturday.
Frances O’Grady is general secretary of the TUC