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TUC boss urges Government to stop attacking trade unions and help boost workers’ wages in new year message

PUBLISHED: 15:14 31 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:14 31 December 2015

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady.

The Government has been urged to stop attacking trade unions and help to boost workers’ wages after new research showed average weekly pay is £40 below pre-recession levels.

Unions boss Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, has issued a new year message warning of a “two speed” economy in the UK which was leaving some workers behind.

“Without government action, Britain is at risk of turning into a ‘below-stairs’ labour market – college leavers are eight times more likely to find work in the service sector than in manufacturing. And when they do find work, it’s too often dead-end, with little chance to progress,” she warned.

While the Government was saying the UK was getting back to economic health, wages had not recovered and wouldn’t for some years to come, she said.

“It will take until 2018 for average earnings just to get back to the real value they held in 2008. Ten years of pay going backwards while everything else - transport, housing, bills - gets ever more expensive and debt piles up. A lost decade,” she said.

“Decent wages and security for your family shouldn’t just be the preserve of those at the top of the tree, but should be on offer for everyone. That’s the recovery I want to see - a recovery that’s fairly shared.”

The TUC leader said the Government had failed to invest in skills, which had led to productivity languishing 13% below its level before the recession in 2008.

“To Government, I say this: you promised to be on the side of the workers. You say you want a high wage, high growth country. We want that too. So in 2016 stop attacking trade unions and start working with us instead.

“That’s how we build a Britain where we all move forward together.”

She called on every worker – freelance, contract, temporary or permanent – to get a group of colleagues together and join a union.

“Feel that support, that confidence and that pride that only comes when you stand with your workmates and use your collective sway to make working life better,” she said.

“To employers, I say: work with us. Help us build motivated workforces on great terms and conditions that can take pride in what they do and will back your business throughout.

“And to government, I say this: as you promised, be on the side of the workers.”

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