The Workers Union has hit out at the UK’s inequalities of income, describing them as being ‘at odds with our national character.’
The announcement came ahead of a report by the Resolution Foundation that is expected to be published this week.
The report will argue that comparatively high levels of income inequality, lower savings and less generous welfare provision have left the UK’s working families more exposed to the effects of the pandemic than those in France and Germany.
This is reflected in the typical hourly rate paid to UK workers (£11.20) being substantially less than the £12.30 and £13.89 received by their French and German counterparts. The disparities are underpinned by low-incomes, insecure work and zero-hour contracts, fuelling worries about the role of poor-quality work in creating a two-tier society.
Meanwhile the French and German social security net also looms large in negative comparisons between Britain and its continental neighbours. A typical worker claiming unemployment benefit in the UK will receive a mere 17 percent of their former earnings, as compared to 59 percent (Germany) and 64 percent (France).
The Workers Union on Income Inequality
There’s a line in the old music hall song ‘She Was Poor But She Was Honest’ that seems very relevant to the times we live in. The song recounts the adventures of a young lady who spirals from a relationship with the local squire into dissolute circumstances. The chorus laments the age old relationship between rich and poor by telling us that the wealthy get the pleasure, while those less fortunate get the blame – an observation as accurate now as when the song was written in the 19th century.
And so it goes on. Working people, conveniently excluded from grasping the levers of power, so often merit only a few embarrassed lines in our national conversation. That is not good enough in a wealthy country with aspirations of creating a beacon of inspiration for the rest of the world.
We need to get a grip on income inequality and boot the idea that some people are poor because they are feckless into touch. The reality is that workers on low wages work as hard as anyone, but in insecure jobs that offer them little respite from the capricious whims of chance. Can’t afford to stop working for a while? Tough, get on the front line and take the COVID gamble with the rest of ‘em.
This cannot be right.
This government has done much to preserve jobs and give people hope and support during the very toughest of times. Now they must take steps to tackle poor sick pay and neutralise the bad bosses that victimise staff without hesitation.
It will mean growing enough moral fibre to abolish zero-hours contracts and reinvigorating the idea of dignity at work as fundamental to British life. It will also mean increasing the National Living Wage and boosting other benefits.
But more than this, it means shifting the focus of blame away from punishing the poor to creating equality of opportunity.
That is the least that working people deserve.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice, fighting for you