John Harris

Journalist & Author

Feeling the squeeze? We want to hear from you | John Harris

The public and private sectors seem to be engaged in a race to the bottom on pay, so let us know how it is affecting you

One of the avowed aims of our Anywhere But Westminster series is to push well beyond the current news agenda into places and themes that not enough of the mainstream media bother with. In fact, if everyone else is metaphorically zigging, we’d rather zag – which brings us to our third film and article, and what we want to explore.

With the annual advent of bonus season, more news space than ever has been dedicated to pay at the top. But the position of people at the other end of the pay scale looks more fragile than ever, and not nearly enough attention is being paid to what’s happening to millions. In the public sector, wages are being squeezed as never before (witness the council worker we spoke to in Altrincham, who’s just had his £13,000 salary cut by £750 – he appears at around 3:50 into the video). In the private sector, a similar race to the bottom – often involving temporary and agency workers – seems to be setting in. If you thought we’d seen the limits of labour market “flexibility” under the last government, think again.

Meanwhile, VAT goes up, inflation rises, and the cost of running a car or even taking public transport threatens to become prohibitively expensive. Issues such as immigration and housing blend into the debate. A whole swath of the consumer economy, from budget supermarkets to pound shops, has sprung up to serve a part of the labour force that is too often ignored. And while competition is used to justify rewards at the top, it supposedly excuses nosediving wages at the bottom.

So we want to hear from anyone who lives on low pay, and is feeling the squeeze on their wage. Given that the series is so geographically specific, we’d also like on-the-ground intelligence about places that are particular bywords for the low-wage economy, and what “flexibility” does to them. John Domokos and I will be back on the following thread for the next three days.

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