Low-income workers without trade unions are more likely to feel the cost-of-living squeeze than others, an economist has warned.

In recent months the worsening crisis has sparked calls for higher wages after inflation hit 9.1% in the 12 months to May – its highest level in 40 years.

Experts warn this is likely to increase even further in autumn when the new energy price cap is introduced, widely expected to reach almost £3,000 a year.

With many workers at the sharp end of the crisis, trade unions from a number of sectors have called for higher pay and better work conditions amid fears of a summer of unrest.

Read more: Rail strikes: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has ‘not lost control of his MPs’ over industrial action, says shadow cabinet member

The progressive think-tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has warned that poorly paid, private sector workers who are not unionised will likely feel the inflation pinch the hardest.

“Poor people are usually in sort of non-unionised, less secure jobs,” said Dominic Caddick, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

“And they’re going to be the ones that are going to find it the most difficult to secure pay increases.”

This month, the RMT, one of the biggest trade unions, went on strike for three days amid disputes over pay, working conditions, and redundancies.

With their demands still not met, the union has said more strikes are on the horizon in the coming weeks.

RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch speaking at a rally outside King's Cross Station in London, as train services continue to be disrupted following the nationwide strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Saturday June 25, 2022.
The RMT is demanding higher pay, no compulsory redundancies, and better working conditions. (PA)

Caddick warned government rhetoric also risks making it harder for non-unionised workers to receive pay increases.

“If the government is setting the example in the public sector of refusing pay increases for workers, then that’s also going to mean that the private sector will generally follow,” said Caddick.

He added: “And therefore people who are stuck in private sector, insecure jobs – who are generally poor -are going to be much worse off than heavily unionised industries that maybe can secure those pay increases.”

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