The Trade Union Congress has predicted that today’s budget-day strikes involve more than half a million workers including teachers, journalists, civil servants and transport workers. The walkout will be the biggest since industrial action ramped up last year as a result of stifling real-term wage cuts, poor working conditions, job cuts and attacks on pensions.
Today’s strikes are on the day of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s “budget for growth”, which has already drawn criticism from Paul Johnson (the Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a thoroughly respectable ruling class think tank) for failing to maintain the real value of benefit payments, which are nominally uprated in line with inflation but will fall in real terms. This is due to the annual lag in uprating benefits, as benefits are “increased” each year in April in line with the CPI inflation measure from September of the previous year, which is especially damaging for welfare recipients in a time of historic inflation rates.
Mr Johnson also pointed out that “the government has spent months saying it can’t find any money to prevent nurses and teachers getting very big pay cuts. He [Ed. Chancellor Hunt] just found £6 billion to cut fuel duties. That’s a choice.”
Other measures include upfront childcare funding for parents eligible for Universal Credits, but the measure is caveated by strict obligations to seek work.
This, in circumstances where 40% of the members of the Public and Commercial Services Union working at the Department for Work and Pensions claim the same Universal Credit that they administer.
The budget has rightly been overshadowed by the strikes and protests of the labour movement, not least because they are accompanied by confirmation the Office of Budget Responsibility that we are witnessing the largest fall in living standards since 1956 (when records of real household disposable income per person began).