By Mike Fenwick, leeds health unison and leeds keep our nhs public
GORDON Brown will impose a below inflation pay award on the public sector this year. The armed services are exempt but all those working in the NHS, civil service etc will have an effective cut in salary.
The headline award for nurses is 2.5%, but, staged, in two payments, it becomes only 1.9%. Deduct the 0.25% Gordon has claimed for extra pensions contributions, and consider that the inflation rate is 4.2%: that’s a real terms cut of 2.55%.
Workers in local government are expecting an even lower offer. Civil servants, already in dispute, face similar deals of below 2%, linked to changes in working practice.
The pay deals must be seen in the context of further closures and job cuts across the public sector, leaving fewer staff with more work.
Spending on the public sector is increasing but public sector workers remain amongst the lowest paid, with poor pension provision and long working hours. Much of the extra money that has been spent in the NHS, for example, has been spent on white elephant PFI projects, the creation of the internal market, and straightforward handouts to the private sector.
The trade unions have responded with indignation, but will they take action to reject the deal? That does mean industrial action, not more lobbies or media friendly stunts.
Several unions are now consulting on what their members want to do. The RCN has already reported that two thirds of its members would be willing to take industrial action.
Early results inside Unison and other unions show a similar desire to fight. With the civil service already balloting for action on 1 May, the opportunity exists for a united fightback in defence of public services. We should be campaigning for the other unions to call for and coordinate strike ballots, not just a further round of paper exercises.
Linking up with community campaigns fighting to save services is a priority. The cause of decently paid staff is indivisible from decent services.
Where possible joint events should be organised drawing together union activists and communities to challenge Brown. We need a national campaign to defend what remains of the welfare state.