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Thousands join TUC march over wages and workers' rights

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Thousands of people have joined a trade union march calling for a "new deal" for workers and public services.The central-London demonstration, led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), highlighted demands for better pay and job security.TUC research said the UK's real wage squeeze would be the worst in modern history and the slowest for 200 years.The government said its policies had boosted pay for the lowest earners and meant workers could keep more of it.
'Major earnings crisis'
Demonstrators gathering at Saturday's march called for a higher minimum wage of
Speaking before the rally, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "There is a new mood in the country. People have been very patient but they are now demanding a new deal."The union data suggested wages in the UK had lagged behind inflation since 2008, and were worth ?24 less in real terms than in 2008.The TUC also said wages would not recover until 2025, by which time, it said, the average worker would have lost ?18,500. Official figures for employment and average earnings are due to be published next week. They may show average wage rises have risen above inflation for the first time in a year.But that would not be enough to overturn the trend seen since the credit crisis, the TUC said.
Workers marching out
As well as nurses, ambulance crews, postal workers, teachers, civil servants and cleaners, the London demonstration included workers not known for union membership.Staff at restaurant chains TGI Friday's and McDonald's joined the march after balloting for industrial action for the first time.Workers at two branches of McDonald's walked out in September last year in a dispute over zero-hours contracts and pay.And waiters and kitchen staff at TGI Friday's decided to hold a ballot over strike action in April following wage disputes.
The TUC's deputy general secretary Paul Nowack told the BBC the UK had had 17 years of falling wages in real terms, the biggest relative wage loss since the Napoleonic Wars.He said: "It doesn't matter whether our members are working in the public sector or the private sector, the fact is they've seen their living standards fall year on year." In the last eight years, a million more children from working families were living "below the breadline", he said."I don't think it's right that people who go out and work are struggling to put food on the table."
Helping lowest earners
Economists said the slow wage growth was a result of low productivity in the UK, rather than austerity policies.Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: "The key issue is that the economy hasn't grown and the economy hasn't grown because productivity hasn't grown. "That means that the amount we produce for each hour we work is basically the same as it was in 2008. If we're not producing any more, we're not in the end going to be able to earn any more."A Treasury spokesperson said wages were forecast to grow faster than inflation in each of the next five years, and that government policies were helping British workers."Our National Living Wage has boosted pay for the lowest earners by over ?2,000 already; we are cutting taxes to help people keep more of what they earn; and we are making sure people have the skills they need to secure high-quality, well-paid jobs by investing in technical education and boosting apprenticeships."The TUC said its figures were based on annual average weekly earnings for total pay (including bonuses) adjusted with the CPI measure of inflation, which were then compared with long-run back data published by the Bank of England.The forward-looking ones were based on the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast to 2022, and then a projection to 2025 using the average forecast growth rate for the 2018-22 period.
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