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‘Level up’ the country by scrapping benefits cut and backing pay rises, Boris Johnson told

Written by on 12/09/2021

Boris Johnson is being urged to “level up” Britain by backing pay rises for workers, scrapping his proposed cut in Universal Credit and tackling child poverty.

The challenge comes from TUC leader Frances O’Grady in a call to the government to protect workers from further pandemics, climate change and the tech revolution.

In her TUC conference speech, Ms O’Grady will claim workers would be nearly £6,000 a year better off now if wages had continued to grow at their rate before the 2008 financial crash.

Frances O'Grady will claim workers could have been nearly £6,000 a year better off now
Image: Frances O’Grady will claim workers could have been nearly £6,000 a year better off now

Her speech comes after the TUC published analysis claiming 660,000 jobs – many in “red wall” constituencies in industrial heartlands – are under threat unless the prime minister speeds up climate change moves towards “net zero”.

Ms O’Grady’s speech, on the first full day of the part-virtual TUC conference, comes ahead of a debate calling on the government to outlaw “fire and rehire” in which the new Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, will make her public debut.

On the final day of the three-day conference, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will address delegates in a dress rehearsal of his party conference speech two weeks later.

Challenging Mr Johnson to deliver on his promises to level up Britain, Ms O’Grady will say: “Ministers tell us they’re going to level up Britain.

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“But levelling up means nothing if they freeze key workers’ pay, slash Universal Credit, and the number of kids in poverty soars.

“So, I have a challenge for the prime minister. If levelling up means anything, it must mean levelling up at work and levelling up living standards.”

Sir Keir Starmer will address the conference in person on Tuesday
Image: Sir Keir Starmer is also set to address the conference

The pandemic should be a “catalyst for real change”, she will say, resulting in an economy that “helps working families and communities thrive”.

In a warning for the future, Ms O’Grady will say the UK “must be better prepared for crises”.

“Climate chaos is here already and the longer we put off getting to net zero, the more disruptive it will be,” she will say.

“New tech offers new opportunities – but also poses old threats to jobs. And the market will not save us.”

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In full: PM presents ‘vision’ for ‘levelling up’ the UK

And on the need to fix staff shortages and boost living standards, she will say: “Ministers may scratch their heads about how to protect supply chains and fill vacancies.

“Well, here’s a novel idea – let’s make that industry deliver decent conditions, direct employment and a proper pay rise.

“And let’s be clear. After decades of real wage cuts and falling living standards, no one can seriously say working people don’t deserve a pay rise.”

Earlier, another TUC leader said freezing public sector pay and giving NHS workers less than they deserve is “picking the pockets” of the mainly female workforce who have given their all during the pandemic.

TUC president Gail Cartmail said the fact women effectively work the first 64 days of the year for free “makes my blood boil”.

 Sky News

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