Credit: Flickr/talkingimo

TUC boss warns of worker revolt

If businesses don't raise salaries soon, workers will make their anger known, Frances O'Grady says.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Sep 2013
Are we in for a 1970s-style winter of discontent? Frances O’Grady, the leader of the Trades Union Congress, has warned that as the economy’s recovery speeds up, workers will begin to get restive if they’re not adequately rewarded.

‘People were told to tighten there belts, take the medicine; "there is no other way",’ she told the FT today.

‘As we see signs – however anaemic – that the economy is recovering, there will be a lot of pent-up feeling that its time people got fair shares.’

O’Grady will warn at the TUC congress on Sunday that unless businesses do something fast, we are likely to see large-scale strikes by disgruntled workers. In some places, it’s already begun: in the US, workers at fast food chains have already taken part in two days of walkouts over pay.

But there must be questions over how much appetite there is for mass strikes in the UK - and businesses are, understandably, uncomfortable with the idea of raising wages at a time when recovery is at its most fragile. The CBI has pointed out that increasing salaries would increase costs for businesses – meaning they might have to cut jobs. With unemployment still at 2.51 million, it’s arguable that businesses should to be free to create jobs, rather than raising wages for those already in employment.

Obviously, that won’t come as much consolation to workers, who have had to endure and average real terms wage drop of 9% since early 2008. And with inflation currently at 2.8% (it peaked at 5.2% in 2011), that leaves a particularly nasty taste in the mouth.

In an ideal world, of course, businesses would be able to raise salaries, create jobs and invest in growth, all at the same time. Although that would put us back to exactly the same conditions as 2007. And we all know how that turned out…

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