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Propaganda attacks on public sector workers: Countering the Con-Dem government's offensive
THE DAILY Mail reports with glee that Tory prime minister David Cameron wants to get rid of public sector workers' 'gold plated pensions'. I think he will have a job on his hands to find workers with such a pension given that the average local government pension for men will be just £4,000 a year and as low as £2,800 for women!
By a Leicestershire, local government worker
Maybe Cameron's talking about the final salary pensions based on salaries of some of the highest paid staff who work at Leicestershire county council? Eight officers earned more than £100,000 in 2008/2009, with chief executive John Sinnott earning £191,105 in the same year.
But Sinnott's salary isn't the highest paid by a local authority. According to a recent Panorama TV programme, the Tory flagship borough of Wandsworth, south London, pays its chief executive Gerald Jones a staggering £299,925 a year.
The right wing media and coalition government also seem to want to divide workers by claiming that public sector workers earn far more than those in the private sector. Yet two-thirds of local government workers earn less than £21,000 a year and face a three-year pay freeze, ie a pay cut after taking into account price inflation.
In the three months to May 2010, private sector pay freezes accounted for 10% of pay settlements and 40% in the public sector. This meant that public sector pay freezes were already happening when the government announced a two year pay freeze in the June budget.
I know a fellow Unison union member who has four part time jobs and also a home care worker in the private sector who works over 50 hours a week. These women, who provide a vital service, work these long hours to try to make ends meet. What an insult to them that the chief executive earns nearly £200,000 providing nothing but a threat to cut jobs and services.
What is clear is that the vast majority of workers in the public and the private sector earn very low wages. Where public sector workers have been able to defend some of their rights and conditions it is not down to generous employers. Instead this is in part due to a higher number of public sector workers being in trade unions, who can use their collective strength to fight for better conditions at work.
The trade unions should organise the unorganised and counter the black propaganda of the right wing media and government ministers who continually paint a false picture of a feather-bedded public sector workforce. Clearly the aim of this propaganda is to soften up public opinion in relation to carrying out massive public sector cuts in jobs, which will hit vital public services.
As trade unionists we must not allow the government or media to divide workers and will unite in action to save jobs and services and fight for decent pay.
- 869,000 council workers earn less than £18,000 a year.
- Public sector workers, including teachers and nurses, had their take home pay cut in real terms after a further two-year salary freeze was imposed in the June budget.
- Just under 50% of local government workers work part time and are mainly low paid women in caring roles, earning just 49p above the minimum wage.
- Average earnings are around 8% higher in workplaces where the bulk of the workforce is covered by trade union collective bargaining.
In The Socialist 22 September 2010:
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Organising to save jobs and services
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party campaigns