Cost of living rise 'hits incomes'
The cost of living "crisis" has led to a drop in disposable income of £129 a month per worker, new research has revealed.
Health workers, including paramedics and ambulance staff, have been hardest hit, suffering an average drop of £233 each, a study found.
A survey of almost 4,000 members of the Unite union showed that half said the biggest increase in the price of essentials was on food, followed by energy.
Women were being hit harder than men, reporting a £190 a month drop in monthly disposable income, twice as much as for men.
Almost two thirds of those questioned said their housing rents had increased in recent months, while one in four home owners revealed they were struggling with mortgage payments.
Unite said if the findings were replicated across every worker, the loss to the economy would be £3.9 billion a monh.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Economic recovery may be being enjoyed within the the super-wealthy circles in which the Prime Minister moves, but it is passing ordinary people by.
"Back in the real world there is a cost of living crisis strangling the finances of households across the nation.
"While the rich get richer and ordinary people face soaring costs, dropping income and with winter ahead, our most vulnerable will face the hideous dilemma of whether to heat or eat.
"David Cameron has pledged that austerity is here to stay. He is laying siege to the living standards of the people who will be keeping the NHS going this winter and if you are a woman you face double the squeeze.
"His government is irresponsibly oblivious to the struggles of ordinary people - governing for the few and not the many.
"This country is being walked into widespread impoverishment. Relief could be easily provided - like a cap on energy prices and a boost to the minimum wage to put money in people's pockets - but we cannot expect this government to provide it.
"They are 100% to blame for cost of living crisis sweeping households across Britain and we will not let them forget this."
The biggest drop in monthly disposable income was reported in Wales at £233, followed by London (£167).