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Freight worker unloading goods

Transport workers have fared better than their peers in other public sector professions when it comes to real-times wage changes.

The Resolution Foundation’s Labour Market Outlook, released yesterday (14 August), highlighted a substantial real wage decline across public sector workers since 2021, which it says is a result of rampant inflation.

Despite this, transport workers have retained a consistent real wage compared to other public sector workers, seeing only a 0.2% change. Those in public administration and education roles have experienced far greater declines, seeing their wages drop by 9% and 8% respectively.

ONS outlook

This picture contrasts with that painted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which showed the highest quarterly regular wage rise since records began in 2001.

Speaking to the BBC's Today Programme, Darren Morgan, the ONS’ director of economic statistics, reported that real pay is recovering, stating:

“Basic pay is growing at its fastest since current records began.

"Coupled with lower inflation, this means the position on people's real pay is recovering and now looks a bit better than a few months back.”

The figures have prompted speculation about a fifteenth and final rate rise by the Bank of England (BOE) to curb the inflationary effects.


Many economists, and certainly those at the BOE, were vindicated to see the labour market start to crack, following the fourteenth consecutive rate rise since December 2021. Unemployment rose slightly from 4% to 4.2% this quarter.

Although the number of vacancies also fell, there are still over 1m open. The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) also reported a rise in the number of public sector vacancies.

Adding to the strong position of transport sector workers, the sector was among those with more ‘hard-to-fill’ vacancies. Over half of transport sector employers surveyed (54%) reported a higher number of challenging vacancies.

Striking impact

The Resolution Foundation report also highlights the potential connection between strike action and transport workers’ ability to protect their real pay. In a year dominated by the greatest amount of industrial action since the 1980s, the transport sector has carried out significantly more strikes than any other, with 0.7 days’ work lost per job over the past year to industrial action, compared to 0.1 across the entire economy.

The figures follow the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport’s (RMT) confirmation of two further strike dates for the end of summer: Saturdays 26 August and 2 September.

The UK’s supply chain and logistics sectors have also been impacted by industrial action in ports and the civil service.