The Socialist 26 May 2010 |
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Local government: Where's our pay award for 2010?
The first of April has once again come and gone and still we have had no pay rises. Unfortunately this is no April fool. The national employers are still refusing to move and are intent on making no award this year.
A local government worker
At a recent meeting of the London employers the London leader even told me that it wasn't a pay freeze as they hadn't "taken our increments off us"! [Increments are annual rises within a pay band, which are usually paid automatically].
Councils are using the recession as a cover for this attack. But of course what they hide is the fact that, as in previous years, many have set aside money for this year's pay award and stand to make £ millions a year by not paying it.
This pay cut comes at the very time when the inflation rate was announced as 5.3% (RPI) and even the rigged figure of the CPI (which excludes housing costs) is 3.7%. In effect the council employers are saying we should take a cut in our living standards of 5%.
The fact that many workers in Britain have had pay freezes and pay cuts nails the lie that is it workers' pay demands that cause inflation. The real reasons, according to the governor of the Bank of England, are the 80% increase in oil prices, the lower value of the pound and the VAT increase. So whilst the likes of BP fill their pockets with massive profits, all we get is pay cuts.
This year's pay freeze is at the same time that English councils have been building their reserves to the highest levels in a decade. In the last three years "through efficiency savings" (ie cuts in our jobs and pay) English councils have added £512 million to their unallocated reserves.
Some workers may say: "Better a pay freeze than no job", but the brutal truth is that taking a pay cut has never saved jobs.
Nationally 23,000 council workers' jobs have been cut in the first five months of this year alone. Many more are being lined up, with predictions of 500,000 jobs to go in the next five years.
The new Con-Dem government has said that: "We all need to tighten our belts and even government ministers have taken a 5% pay cut". However when you earn £140,000 a year and over half the cabinet are millionaires anyway, this is little more than gesture politics. It is more about teeing us up for further attacks.
A constant attack on the living standards of public sector workers is economic madness. In many areas of the country over 50% of those in employment are public sector workers. Many in the private sector are reliant on public sector contracts.
For every £1 earned by a public sector worker, 70p is spent in the local economy. You don't have to be an economic genius to work out that if we have less income we have less to spend in the local shops etc.
If someone asks where the money is going to come from - how about taking back the £50 billion given to bail out the banks? They are now making millions and can afford to pay massive bonuses to those who got us in the mess in the first place.
What is clear over the next few years is that nothing is going to be given to us and much is threatened to be taken from us, so we have to get organised.
The Socialist Party demands:
- No pay cuts - for the immediate implementation of Unison's demand for a 2.5% pay rise or a £250 flat rate rise, whichever is the higher.
- For the trade unions to organise a national demonstration to build the struggle for a living wage and to defend jobs in the public sector.
- For this to be linked to a determined struggle to stop the job losses and win pay rises, including strike action.