After years of public sector pay freezes and caps, it is inevitable that pay is an absolutely central issue for our members.
I was struck this week by data showing that wages have fallen in some areas of our region. These are not only real terms falls in wages – after inflation is taken into account – which are bad enough and mean real cuts in living standards. These are places where workers are actually taking home fewer pounds and pence than they were in 2010. This is the case in Rochdale, Oldham, Warrington, Knowsley, Barrow, Fylde, South Ribble and Hyndburn – some of these already relatively low wage areas.
Low wages are a terrible blight on our communities, but they are also hamstringing our local economies. The Region’s economic plan ‘After Austerity’ usefully highlights the importance of decent public sector wages for economic performance. Public sector workers are likely to live and work in the same area and spend a high proportion of their income in the local economy. Every public sector job is estimated to sustain up to half a job in the private sector. Without public sector jobs and decent wages, our local economies have no chance of prospering.
Many of us have been involved in strike action in health this week over pay. The North West will be well-represented at the national TUC march tomorrow in London, under the banner ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’.
As we take action and join demonstrations in the coming days and months, we should keep in mind that there is a desperate need for higher wages – not just for the good of our households but for the good of our economy. Better wages can be afforded and they need to be afforded.