The Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that real wages – the amount people earned in relation to their cost of living – fell by an average of £76 a month in 2022 as a result of pay not keeping pace with inflation.
Key workers in the public sector are now £180 a month worse off in real terms than they were a year ago, it said. It means workers have seen the sharpest fall in real wages since 1977 and the second worst on record since the end of the second world war.
Nurses’ real pay fell by £1,800 over the last year, while paramedics’ real pay fell by £2,400, according to the TUC. Nurses are earning £5,000 a year less – in real terms – than they were in 2010.
And for midwives and paramedics the figure rises to more than £6,000.
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said the current wave of industrial action in Britain is the result of workers “being pushed to breaking point” by years of pay austerity. She also accused ministers of being more interested in escalating disputes than resolving them.
“Family budgets have been shredded by soaring bills and more than a decade of pay being held down. The Conservatives have presided over the longest real wage squeeze in over 200 years,” she said. “The Tories’ failure to get pay rising has left millions of households brutally exposed to the cost of living emergency. It’s time to reward work – not wealth. We cannot be a country where NHS and teaching staff have to use food banks, while City bankers are given unlimited bonuses.”
Workers have faced food inflation running at over 12% and annual energy bills more than £1,000 higher than last year. Despite this, ministers have been actively blocking pay offers by employers – in the case of the rail dispute – or refusing to intervene in others.