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Posted on 12 September 2017 at 16:13 GMT

Barts strike demo, July 2017, photo Paul Mattsson

Barts strike demo, July 2017, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Tories retreat on pay cap

It's 'pay-back' time!

Steve Score

The government has caved in. It has agreed to lift the 1% public sector pay cap from next year, reflecting the pressure the Tories are under and their real weakness.

Police and prison officers, the last groups to have pay decided this year, will have the cap lifted immediately - although their raises are still below inflation.

The Tories are on the back foot. Concerted action could scrap the cap for other workers now, and force real-terms pay rises!

"Look at us, no mortgage, everybody with a pension and never had more money in the current account." This was Chancellor Philip Hammond's boast to other Tory MPs on 6 September.

What a disgusting insult to millions of people who, under his government, continue to have their living standards slashed.

Public sector workers have suffered seven years of official pay restraint, cutting real wages by thousands of pounds a year. Theresa May famously told nurses "there is no magic money tree," yet found over 1 billion to buy the votes of DUP MPs to keep her in power.

Private sector workers have been hammered by attacks on pay and conditions as well, including those on zero hours and in the gig economy.

Yet there is no pay restraint for the bosses! Since 2000 the pay of top chief executives has risen by 220% to a scandalous average of 4.5 million a year each.

Meanwhile, the battle against low pay is gaining momentum.

In the private sector, we have seen courageous struggles. The McDonald's workers' strike against low pay and zero-hour contracts, privatised NHS workers at Barts Health Trust fighting poverty pay, and the long-running struggle to save the role of the guards on our trains.

Cambridge (Newmarket Rd) McDonald's strike, 4.9.17, photo Dave Murray

Cambridge (Newmarket Rd) McDonald's strike, 4.9.17, photo Dave Murray   (Click to enlarge)

In the public sector, Birmingham bin workers have struck against huge cuts in pay and job losses imposed by a Blairite Labour council. And low-paid workers at the Bank of England have won a big victory.

Now is the time to bring all these struggles together with wider action to recover what we have lost.

The National Shop Stewards Network, which rallied before the start of the annual conference of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), has campaigned for national coordinated strike action to scrap the cap and fight low pay.

TUC congress has previously voted to support coordinated action in the public sector. This needs to be put into action now!

Ten years after rich bankers were bailed out after causing the economic crash, working class people are still paying the price. The Socialist Party will continue to fight for a society that eliminates these vast inequalities and guarantees a decent living standard for all.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 12 September 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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