Following reports earlier this year of ‘concerning contraction’ in the Northern Ireland economy, Ulster Bank researchers have now warned that we may have already begun a downturn.

Their study, considered one of the most reliable indicators of the economy here, has identified four consecutive months of falling output since March this year, with economic output declining in June at its steepest rate since November 2012.

This new downturn is not just limited to the North. There are clear signs that the world economy is heading toward another recession. This is evident from the pronounced slowdown in China’s economy. Some experts claim that real economic growth in China last year may have been as low as 2% or less, despite huge economic stimulus programmes launched by the Chinese government. U.S. stock markets have suffered significant dips as billionaires seeing profits fall have been pulling their investments. The growing trade war between these two powers only adds to the instability.

What recovery?

The recent period has seen the mainstream media and politicians alike repeating the same rhetoric of an economic recovery. Despite this, working-class and young people have seen little in the way of any recovery in their living standards or wages. The so called ‘recovery’ has, in fact, been sustained by tightening the squeeze on workers. This race to the bottom has seen precarious conditions of work on the rise, with many workers having to take on one or more part-time jobs in the face of wage freezes and reductions in working hours.

Prepare to fight for our future

Facing a new recession in the economy and the uncertainty of Brexit, we can expect attempts to impose further austerity, job losses and misery for working people. The trade union movement must prepare for the fight to come, firstly by organising the huge sections of predominantly young workers working in services – the biggest sector of the North’s economy – to prevent further outsourcing and casualisation of jobs. Secondly, we must be prepared for industrial action to defend workers’ jobs, wages, conditions, and rights. By preparing for what is to come, workers can fight back against the threat of another ‘lost decade’ and ultimately begin to challenge the rotten capitalist system which is at the root of this problem.

By Neil Moore – Unite the Union (personal capacity)