LONDON - Tens of thousands of people were set to descend on London on Saturday to march against falling real wages, which organisers claim have slumped by £50 ($80, 63 euros) a week since 2008.
Metropolitan Police are expecting protesters from across Britain to congregate at Victoria Embankment at 11:00 am local time (1000GMT) before marching through central London to Hyde Park.
The event is organised by The Trades Union Congress (TUC), a federation of the country’s main trade unions.
‘Our message is that after the longest and deepest pay squeeze in recorded history, it’s time to end the lock-out that has kept the vast majority from sharing in the economic recovery,’ explained TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
‘If politicians wonder why so many feel excluded from the democratic process, they should start with bread and butter living standards.
‘An economy that finds money for tax cuts for the rich and boardroom greed, while the rest face a pay squeeze and big cuts to the welfare system - that any of us might need - is no longer working for the many.’ Organisers are calling for an ‘economic recovery that works for all Britons, not just those right at the top.’
Despite enviable growth figures, Britain’s economic recovery has yet to deliver significant wage rises. A recent study by the New Economics Foundation found that households had suffered a 15 percent decline in their real incomes over the last year, while the Institute for Policy Research reported that wages had failed to keep pace with inflation since 2008. The ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ march comes after health workers went on strike on Monday over the government’s offer of a one percent pay rise and a walkout by civil servants on Wednesday.
Other protests will be held in Glasgow and Belfast. On the eve of the London march, some 200 anti-government campaigners rallied in front of the British parliament, saying that they were planning to set up an ‘Occupy Democracy’ camp without official permission. ‘We are here in front of Westminster to say we want real democracy, and we want it now,’ said activist John Sinha, one of the organisers, as he addressed the crowd. The demonstrators said they planned to stay on the square for nine days, but police told them they were not allowed to have sleeping bags or tents on the square.
By Saturday morning, the crowd had dwindled to about 50 people sitting on the pavement wrapped in blankets and drinking tea, watched by a number of police officers. A police spokesman said there had been ‘no incidents of note’ during the evening.