Public sector pay is moving into the political spotlight. Later this month, local government and schools members will be balloted on industrial action over pay, and we are gearing up for action in health. Already in higher education our members have achieved a better deal through national strike action – the employers’ revised offer of a 2% rise and a commitment to pay the living wage would not have been made without a sustained campaign. We should be encouraged by this as we embark on our wider struggle.
We know that our members cannot continue to be hit with year after year of real terms pay cuts. It is not fair, it is not good for local economies, and we have made the case that a decent pay rise is affordable.
Our cause is right and just, but we can expect stiff resistance from the Government and its allies. We will be told that we are being greedy, that public spending is no longer affordable, and that increased pay will mean worse public services or fewer jobs.
We need to be strong in the face of these attacks and must keep in mind that we are the true champions of public services. We face a Government that is deliberately starving public services of adequate funding while cutting taxes for businesses and the wealthy. It is not that there is a shortage of resources, it is that they are deliberately being with-held from where they’re needed. One effect of this political choice is falling real pay for our members. Other effects of the same choice are redundancies, service cut-backs, understaffing and attacks on welfare provision.
What is needed is a change in Government priorities and a shift in resources to public services. We are fighting the Government’s public sector pay policy and in doing so we are also standing up for our public services and for a fairer society.