The restoration of the economy to the position it was in 2008 is a sign of progress, but there remain serious causes for concern according to Unite.
The latest GDP figures show that the economy has grown by 0.8% returning the size of the economy to 2008 levels in headline terms. It comes after lost years of stagnation resulting from the government’s austerity policies, leaving greater numbers working harder but getting poorer.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, warned the government against crowing that its stewardship of the economy has been a success: “Working people are doing the heavy lifting in our economy. They are working harder but getting poorer so if the economy is growing, it is not them feeling the benefit.
“Let’s be clear: there has been no economic miracle performed here. Quite simply, as our population grows more people are working but they are working for lower wages with zero-hour, insecure jobs at epidemic level and an historic collapse in living standards not seen since Victoria was on the throne.
“As debt charities have consistently warned, many families are one or two pay cheques away from despair. The 1224 automotive workers who found themselves dumped onto the dole queue yesterday remind us that decent jobs are still being shed, to be replaced no doubt by low-waged, low-skilled employment.
“Two features of this so-called recovery ought to be ringing alarm bells in Number 10: at the moment we have a wage siege combined with an investment freeze. Basically, working people’s graft is not being rewarded in their wage packets but banked by businesses which are hoarding millions”. “
“So let’s not have any complacency today from government. What is needed is some action to get businesses to invest in their workforce. People want secure work and money in their pockets – and until they are delivered we cannot claim to be out of the woods.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The economy may finally be back to where it was in early 2008 but pre-crash living standards are a long way off. Workers are still, on average, around £40 a week worse off.
“Despite stronger growth the government’s plan for further sharp spending cuts means that the scaling back of vital public services, from library closures to the squeeze on NHS spending, is now looking permanent.
“The government is overseeing economic growth driven by low-pay and low-productivity. This is the wrong kind of recovery and won’t deliver the higher living standards and sustainable growth that Britain needs.”
And in another stark warning the authoritative Resolution Foundation analysis this week has warned that the years of cheap interest rates will begin to rebound as interest rates move upward – even at a gentle pace to the extent that double the number of households will face some form of repayment problem by 2018.