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TUC congress 2017: public sector pay - time for action
Janice Godrich, national president, PCS union (personal capacity)
Workers' anger at the seven-year pay cap was reflected at the annual TUC conference. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the cap was "inhuman" and that "we need joint ballots for joint industrial action" but only if "rallies and demonstrations fail".
For a number of years now resolutions from the PCS civil servants' union and others have been passed calling for joint coordinated action to defeat the pay freeze but the TUC has done nothing to implement them.
While applauding the many positive points made by Prentis, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the time for just passing resolutions had passed and it was "now time for action". He outlined the PCS strategy, designed to pressure this "weak Tory government...(with) no mandate", with the launch of a consultative ballot of members on whether to take industrial action to scrap the pay cap.
PCS would then analyse the ballot results and put in additional resources to areas they were required to win a statutory ballot for strike action. The government's vicious anti-trade union act deliberately sets a high bar for winning ballots, but building activity and confidence in workplaces can ensure a successful ballot.
Unity in action will be required if we are to prevent the Tories succeeding in their strategy of dividing public sector workers into the "deserving" and "undeserving". All public sector workers deserve at least a 5% pay rise and the Tories must provide the funding as well as scrapping the cap.
Mark called on other unions to join PCS in holding similar consultation ballots to build the pressure. Joint campaigning, joint ballots and joint action can win.
The TUC reckons that public sector workers have lost between £2,000 and £5,000 in real terms as a result of successive government pay caps
Delegates demand TUC take the lead over protests
The most crucial decision of this year's TUC congress was the passing of a composite motion on scrapping the public sector pay cap.
Speaker after speaker from public sector unions, including the prison officers' POA assistant general secretary and Socialist Party member Joe Simpson, backed the motion, with it passing unanimously.
But turning this motion from words into action means going far further than the TUC's lobby of parliament in October.
It means implementing the proposals for "a national demonstration in support of our demands" on a Saturday. This followed the call from Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward in a previous debate that the TUC itself should take the lead on this rather than passing responsibilities off to others.
But crucially it also means "taking immediate steps to develop a coordinated strategy of opposition to the pay cap within the public sector".
Such bold action could not only smash the Tories crumbling pay policy, but could bring this wobbling government down altogether.
Iain Dalton, TUC delegate (personal capacity)
In The Socialist 13 September 2017:
Socialist Party news and analysis
TUC congress 2017
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
The fight in Labour
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist readers' comments and reviews