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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 February 2008

MPs' insult to low-paid workers

LOW-PAID public sector workers are facing three years of below-inflation pay rises. Two MPs from Wakefield area, Mary Creagh and Ed Balls, voted for a 1.9% pay rise for MPs instead of the 2.8% they had been recommended for. But workers are not taken in by the "discipline" being shown by these MPs.

Adrian O'Malley, Unison branch chair, Wakefield and Pontefract Hospitals, Pinderfields Hospital.

As any schoolchild will tell you "1.9% of nothing is nothing" and as usual the real losers under this government's so-called pay restraint will be those at the bottom of the pay scale who are earning a fraction of their MP's salary.

TGWU cleaners demonstrating against low pay, photo Molly Cooper

TGWU cleaners demonstrating against low pay, photo Molly Cooper

According to the local press, Mary Creagh turned down a 2.8% pay rise of 1,543. But Mary's 1.9% rise is still an annual increase of 1,145 or 22 per week. I wrote to the local paper, saying that in comparison, a pay rise of 1.9% is worth 5 a week to a hospital porter and 7.20 a week to a newly qualified staff nurse.

If we were to have a 22 a week pay rise across the board this would be a pay rise of over 8% to a porter and 6% to a newly qualified staff nurse.

When Mr Balls adds on his and his wife's ministerial salary and their tax relief on their second home in London, the MPs' action is clearly just a gesture aimed at supporting what are in effect pay cuts being forced on six million public-sector workers.

Mary Creagh claims pay restraint is necessary if we are to avoid "rampant inflation". Is she immune to the 17% rises in energy bills announced recently or the increases in necessities such as petrol and groceries? To the ordinary man and woman in the street, struggling to make ends meet on low pay, there already is rampant inflation.

If giving Unison members in the NHS and local government a 6% pay rise is inflationary, why didn't MPs complain about inflationary wage rises when the fat cats in the City of London were awarding themselves 1 million bonuses before Christmas? If the government is so strapped for cash where did they find the billions needed to bail out Northern Rock?

Public-sector wages are not responsible for the government's economic problems and therefore public-sector workers should not have to suffer pay cuts in an attempt to solve them.

Trade union branches like ours, representing public-sector workers, will be resisting any attempts by the government to impose below-inflation pay rises. We will not be influenced by the government spin coming from Labour MPs.

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In The Socialist 6 February 2008:

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