Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has warned businesses that 2008 may be a “rocky year”.
In his new year message to trade union members, Barber said that instability has not come from events in the real economy where people trade goods and services, but from the world of finance.
“Employment remains at record levels, and businesses say they are optimistic for the year ahead,” he said.
Barber said that a big worry was “the simmering resentment across the public sector at government pay policy”.
“Public servants have already suffered a cut in their living standards this year. But the government is planning a further three years of reduced living standards.
“The arguments for doing this do not stack up, and the risks are big. It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector,” he said.
Looking ahead Barber said his one wish for 2008 was to have a proper political debate about making Britain a fairer society, including protecting vulnerable workers, ending the abuse of agency workers, and cutting the pay gap between the super-rich and ‘the rest’.
“We need a campaign for fair tax. If the super-rich and big companies are not paying their fair share it means that the rest of us – including small and medium sized businesses – are paying too much: that public services are not getting the growth they need and that we do not have the resources to end child poverty,” he said.