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Union chief to make pay rise call

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Workers deserve a decent pay rise this year in the face of an “unprecedented attack” on their living standards, a union leader will argue today.

Frances O’Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC, will tell a conference that workers are being hit by rising inflation, higher VAT and more expensive energy.

Unions face a series of challenges, including winning the argument for better wages as well as “fairness” for public sector workers, she will say.

“Let’s be blunt, 2011 is going to be a horrible year with cuts, job losses, price rises and pressure on pay and pensions, and thousands more ordinary working families will be pushed into the red as a result.

“The biggest threat is the government’s determination to slash public spending. Already there are alarming signs that its fiscal fundamentalism could cause the dreaded double dip, with our economy contracting by 0.5% in the fourth quarter of last year - and that’s before the worst of the cuts take hold.

“It won’t just be the public sector that will be affected. Private sector output, confidence and profitability will take a huge hit. TUC research suggests it will take firms 14 years to create enough jobs to get employment back to pre-recession levels. Indeed, unemployment looks set to climb way beyond the current 2.5m.

“The economic outlook is grim and workers are facing an unprecedented assault on their living standards. Thanks to the increase in VAT, real wages this year are likely to be no higher than they were in 2005. It’s clear these are hugely difficult times for working people,” she will tell the conference in London.

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