With the local government pay ballot well under way and members in health showing their anger at their treatment by the Government, it is important that we have an answer to the Con-Dems constant refrain that public sector pay restraint is necessary “to put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing”.
It has been an extraordinary triumph of Coalition propaganda to re-imagine the collapse in economic performance following the crisis of global capitalism in 2007/8 as somehow being caused by excessive public spending. The crisis was caused by excessive household debt, which was caused by wages being too low and western societies being too unequal after years of neo-liberal policies. For Conservative politicians to use the calamitous failing of economic policies they supported as a reason to further hack away at the rights and chances of working people takes staggering cheek.
In all this, we must keep the truth in mind. While the Government cites the parlous state of the nation’s finances as making pay restraint necessary, they are not nearly so careful when it comes to the treatment of their mates. So while public sector workers have lost £2,000 a year since 2010, the Government have cut taxes on business each year, saving them £5bn that should have been available for public services. They also chose to forego tax revenue by cutting the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p, handing a £677.5million windfall to some of the highest earners. Where local economies would benefit from higher public sector pay – with 50p of every £1 being spent locally – the Government’s tax cuts for the rich sit in bank accounts or are squandered on conspicuous consumption.
There’s money for Trident renewal but not for Children’s Centres. This is not a matter of the Government making cuts by necessity but by choice. Our struggle for decent public sector pay is part of a bigger battle for a fairer distribution of resources.