Fair wage deals are essential but going on strike should be a last resort

News Letter editorial on Monday April 25 2022:

By Editorial
Monday, 25th April 2022, 3:07 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 3:34 am
News Letter editorial

Across Europe and America and other parts of the world, the cost of living is spiralling.

We are not alone in Northern Ireland in feeling the crunch.

There are many reasons for the rise in prices.

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The Covid pandemic threw economies around the globe into chaos.

Inflation was in many respects rising already. Certainly the risk of it has been a worry for more than a decade, due to factors including ultra low interest rates and quantitative easing (ie governments printing money).

And then there is the human tragedy and economic disaster of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It is not just gas prices that have soared. The cost of oil has done too.

Filling up a typical sized home oil tank came with a price tag of more than £1,000 recently, and is still almost double the cost that it was at the beginning of the Covid lockdown.

The anxiety that this is causing is widespread.

Homes everywhere are wondering how they will pay the heating bills (by a stroke of sheer luck, we are entering summer in the UK, which will give people some respite).

But also how they will drive their children to school or afford food staples (given that Russia and Ukraine are such vital wheat suppliers, for example).

It is only right that wages rise at this time to offset the soaring cost of living.

Most employers are indeed upping the amount that they pay their staffs. However, it is almost always shy of inflation.

Measuring inflation, however, is a tricky (and contested) business. Some price increases are sharp but temporary.

In Northern Ireland, a range of sectors are now threatening to go on strike, or actually doing so.

While fair wage deals are essential, a wage spiral will itself add to inflation.

Striking should be a last resort, and employers and employees should stretch themselves to reach sensible compromises.

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