Chancellor George Osborne wants to make public sector pay rates more “market-facing” and responsive to private sector pay rates. Regional pay bargaining is to be introduced, starting with some departments in the civil service.
Osborne claims that public sector pay has risen twice as fast as private sector in the last four years. This ignores the fact that bank nationalisations in 2009 artificially increased "public sector” pay and decreased private sector pay. Anyway, relatively higher union membership in the public sector should mean that we win better pay rises.
This new attack on our pay follows two years of pay freeze in the public sector (three years in local government) and a proposed limit of public sector pay rises from 2013 at only 1% for the next two years. Last year’s increase of £250 for the lowest-paid workers was inconsistently applied, with those in local government not receiving it, despite nearly 75% of council workers earning below the £21,000 low- pay threshold.
Council workers’ pay has been slashed in real terms by 13% between 2009 and 2012.
The Chief Execs of councils have seen massive increases in pay over the last 10 years of between 27% and 50% according to the Audit Commission.
Regional pay bargaining is all about opening up the potential for private firms to make fatter profits from a cheaper public sector workforce. With almost three million public workers outside London and the south east, the government plan will to take billions out of workers’ pay packets, and out of regional economies.
Campaigning on low pay can unite layers of workers who have nothing to lose. We should not wait for national or regional unions to produce leaflets and reports or to lobby government.
We need to build campaigns through local unions to push the union leaderships into a serious campaign.