Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thirty years of theft

I've been meaning to blog a link to this excellent post on the Touchstone blog - http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2012/01/introducing-the-touchstone-incomes-tracker/. It really bring's home the extent of the "wage squeeze" that has happened over the past generation.

In 1978, 58% of the wealth we created went on wages. Today it's just 53.8%. This reverses the "profit squeeze" of the previous generation, in which the unique social and economic circumstances of the postwar "long boom" had led to increasing material wellbeing for working people associated with the growth of trade union membership, density and power.

In the postwar decades "A low level of unemployment (with the virtual disappearence of the reserve army of labour for a period) strengthened the bargaining power of the working class. There was a general strengthening of trade union organisation, the development of national pay bargaining, and the spread of shop-floor trade union organisation. Workers' real wages (deflated against consumer prices) rose at an historically high rate." (http://www.marxist.net/economic/crisis2.htm)

In the past three decades we have seen the reverse happening. Declining union organisation at a rank and file level has been accompanied by various assaults upon national pay bargaining, and increasing real wages have fallen short of increases in labour productivity, which is reflected in the declining share of national income paid in wages.

What this all means is that working people are worse off because our movement has been in decline. Now we face a period of falling real wages and renewed assaults upon both national pay bargaining (witness the electricians dispute and the Government's drive to regionalise pay bargaining) and upon shop floor organisation (courtesy of the Tory right's drive to "expose" negotiated facility time). These assaults are not ends in themselves but means to the end of further weakening workers' bargaining power and, therefore, income.

The "Touchstone Income Tracker" gives you some idea what you would be earning today if we hadn't faced thirty years of declining union power.

Now all we need is an online tool which tells us how to go about rebuilding that power...

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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