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140201wages

Congratulations are due to BBC business body Jonty Bloom, who should get an award for the bilge he blathered to justify the fact that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have engineered the longest drop in wages for 50 years.

He blamed employees, saying that they weren’t productive enough.

The Office for National Statistics had reported that real wages have fallen by 2.2 per cent every year since David Cameron took over as Prime Minister in 2010 and, as the Tory’s mass-media mouthpiece, the BBC seem to have tasked Mr Bloom with finding plausible deniability for the Coalition, so that ministers won’t have to take responsibility.

Real wages are worked out by taking the rising cost of living into account while calculating the value of earnings.

The ONS report followed one from the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday, suggesting that a mid-range household’s income between 2013-14 was six per cent below its pre-crisis peak.

Both of these reports were latecomers to this particular party, though. A Labour Party report from August 2013 stated that prices had risen faster than wages in all but one month of Cameron’s premiership – April 2013, when he cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses soared. The overall fall in annual real wages was £1,350 at the time that report was written.

The Labour report went on to say that figures from the House of Commons Library forecast that, after inflation, wages will be £1,520 lower in 2015 than in 2010, meaning working people, on average, will have lost £6,660 in real terms during the Coalition Parliament.

You’ll notice the BBC report only provides percentages. Interesting, that.

Over at the BBC, Mr Bloom tried to convince us that “workers have, on average, been working fewer hours during the downturn and that in turn has meant that they are earning less.

“The wage an employer pays… will be based on the productivity of the employee. So if a firm’s output falls, it will respond by reducing either the level of wages or the number of people employed in order to maintain its viability… Many firms seem to have held on to staff but output per hour worked fell, putting downward pressure on wages.”

He also suggested that a shift from higher-paid manufacturing jobs to lower-paid service jobs had contributed.

Sadly for Mr Bloom, we can punch holes through all of his arguments. Firstly, this is the government that insisted private sector jobs growth would outweigh the loss of public sector jobs it was going to inflict on the country. That claim alone suggests that ministers may have pressurised firms to keep employees in-post.

But the downturn meant there was less demand for firms’ products. How could they remain viable? Answer: Cut the hours worked by employees. Could this be the reason part-time and zero-hours contracts have exploded during the course of this Parliament? Part-time workers have fewer holiday entitlements and do not cost employers as much in National Insurance. Zero-hours workers are only called when they are needed and therefore the firm’s overheads are hugely reduced. Bosses benefit while workers go without.

Could this also be why firms have hired outside contractors on a self-employed basis, paying them a set amount per job, no matter how long it takes, in order to bypass the minimum wage law? Contractors earn less than the minimum wage but work far longer hours (without upsetting Mr Bloom’s average).

The productivity of a worker depends on how long they are working; part-time or zero-hours employees work for less time and therefore their productivity cannot be anything but lower than a full-time worker. Self-employed contractors’ pay is fixed in companies’ favour from the start. Mr Bloom’s argument is based on a wages fiddle.

Oh, and that shift from manufacturing to the service industries? Isn’t that something the Conservative-led Coalition has vowed vehemently to reverse, while doing spectacularly little about it? I think it is.

One personal note: My own experience as an employee suggests that firms’ financial woes have far more to do with the idiotic decisions made by executives than with the output of employees. Changes in the market do not lead to inventive and innovative responses; instead, the workers are penalised with lower wages or unemployment. This puts firms in a slow death spiral as continual erosion of the workforce makes managers increasingly less able to cope with the challenges that, unaddressed, rack up against them.

So congratulations, Jonty. You carry on blaming the workers if you want. It won’t make a scrap of difference because the real problems lie with the decisions made by company execs, responding to stupid Tory policies.

What a shame you can’t say anything about that because your employers are so utterly under the Tory thumb.

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