Workers are thousands of pounds worse off after being "cheated" out of their fair share of economic growth, the TUC has claimed.
The union organisation published research on the opening day of its annual Congress which showed that average earners were £7,000 a year worse off than in 1980.
Workers would be earning more if wages had kept up with economic growth and if the best paid had not seen their wages go up at the expense of everyone else, said the TUC.
General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite the crash, the economy has almost doubled in size over the last thirty years. But most people at work have been cheated out of their fair share of that growth.
"Since the start of the 1980s, the share of the economy going to wages has shrunk. And those with the highest salaries have done better than those below them. The result is that average workers now get a smaller section of a smaller pie.
"New research by the TUC reveals that the wage grab is now running at £7,000 a year.
"The average full-time worker is now paid around £26,000 a year. But if wages had grown in line with economic growth, and if the gap between those right at the top and the rest had not increased, the average worker would now be getting £33,000 a year - a £7,000 pay rise."
The conference, in Brighton, will this week hear calls for co-ordinated strikes in protest at government policies.
Mr Barber told a press conference that living standards for most people had taken a "big hit" over the years. The economy had almost doubled in size in the 30 years, but ordinary workers had not shared in that growth, he said.
Mr Barber, who stands down as TUC leader at the end of the year, said this week's conference will show the "real anger" felt by millions of people at the squeeze on their living standards.