Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/537/6143
Organise to fight the public-sector pay robbery
Since New Labour came to power in 1997 the wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has quadrupled to £412 billion. Last month it was reported that bankers and financiers had taken a record £12.6 billion in bonuses alone so far this year. At the same time MPs are moving mountains to stop us finding out what they are claiming on expenses.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Unison members are struggling to make ends meet. With petrol, utility bills, council tax and even basic foodstuffs all rising faster than the official rate of inflation, public-sector workers are getting angry.
Over 800,000 Unison members have now rejected their pay offers. Those working in probation, further education and the meat hygiene services are the latest. They are either balloting for action or planning to.
As this week's Unison conference closes, so will the balloting of Unison members in local government in our latest pay dispute.
Not content with last year's insultingly low pay award of 2.475%, the employers have decided to offer us even less this year. With inflation running at over 4%, the employers have decided that our members are worth a pathetic 2.45% with strings attached. This isn't a pay award, this is a pay cut!
A 'yes' vote followed by strike action would send a message to employers and the government that local government workers have had enough and are fighting back.
Unfortunately Unison's health membership have voted to accept a three-year pay deal, which averages just 2.6%. But this does not mean that members are happy with a below-inflation pay award which is in effect a pay cut.
It was clear to members from the start that the leadership were in favour of the deal and did not want to lead a determined fight against the Labour government.
A consultation ballot would not even have taken place had delegates at the recent Unison health conference not opposed the unelected fulltime national officers who hoped they could get the deal rubber-stamped by Unison's health service group executive (SGE) and health conference.
The SGE split down the middle, voting 19 to 19 and conference decided to put the deal to the membership without a recommendation but with the proviso that branches could make their own recommendations.
Despite this decision, leaflets went out to every health member from Unison national office explaining how difficult it would be to get an improved deal. No wonder members were not confident of the union leadership leading a determined struggle.
How can our union fight for its members when it insists on a cosy relationship with a party which is intent on attacking our pay and conditions?
The public-sector pay robbery is not just an issue for Unison members. From the civil service to police, teachers and nurses, public-sector workers are being robbed blind while the rich continue to get richer at our expense.
If we are serious about this struggle then we need to take serious action. This means cross-union action like the action by teachers, lecturers and civil servants on 24 April and a move towards a one-day, all-out public sector general strike.
It's time we made this government and the employers listen. Fight the pay cuts and demand a decent wage for all public-sector workers!
In The Socialist 11 June 2008:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party campaigns
Defend Tommy Sheridan
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news