As the Tories ‘make millions’ in Manchester, 20% of UK workers go without food

Boris Johnson Protesting workers
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

As wealthy Conservatives gather for their four-day conference in Manchester from 29 September, research shows that one in five workers has to skip meals to make ends meet. The number of people missing out on meals has increased “by more than half in two years”.

The Conservatives seem hell-bent on forcing through a no-deal Brexit. The outcome of which could inflict more misery on British people. But in the coming days, the Conservative Party is to “make millions” in Manchester, as it opens its conference to lobbyists. Meanwhile, working people go hungry and some are forced to use foodbanks.

Poll results and austerity

In 2019, UN poverty expert Philip Alston warned that Conservative austerity condemns people to lives that are:

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solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

And TUC findings seem to bear that out. Because it’s not just meals that people are missing out on. The findings show:

  • 19% went without heating during the cold.
  • 10% couldn’t pay their rent or mortgage on time.
  • 20% pawned or sold something to get money.

Also, 30% of workers say they wouldn’t be able to pay an unexpected bill. And of those that could pay, 24% said they would need to either borrow or sell something to pay it.

The minimum wage

The highest hourly rate currently stands at £8.21 for over 25s. Labour promises to introduce a real living wage of £10 per hour and to ban zero-hour contracts.

Low wages aren’t the only thing causing hardship for working people. The existence of zero-hours contracts does so too. Because zero-hours contracts mean employees aren’t guaranteed stable hours of work. This could result in zero pay where most people need to claim universal credit to try to supplement their income which can be problematic if on a zero-hours contract. So this means working people can neither afford basic necessities, nor know how much, or if, they’ll earn each week.

By contrast in June, millionaire prime minister Boris Johnson showed he didn’t know much about the minimum wage in the UK. Johnson claimed it was already “at or around £10 or so”. He also refused to commit to raising it.

More vulnerable

This situation is unforgivable in a country as wealthy as the UK. And the UK is in the middle of a wealth boom despite being the fifth most unequal country in Europe. Yet, worryingly, many people on low incomes are now more vulnerable to a recession than they were in 2008. So we desperately need a government that will improve working conditions and end inequality.

The Conservatives may boast about falling unemployment rates, but this means nothing to people in low-paid, insecure jobs. Its clearly too detached from ordinary people to do anything about it. So the time for a credible alternative is long overdue.

Featured image via  YouTube – Guardian News / STUC1 – YouTube

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