Socialist Worker

Workers across the unions get ready to fight Brown’s 2 percent pay cap

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2045

PCS strikers in Glasgow last week (Pic: Duncan Brown)

PCS strikers in Glasgow last week (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Gordon Brown’s 2 percent pay limit for the public sector has outraged millions of workers.

The Unison union’s health service group executive’s decision to recommend an industrial action ballot over pay is the clearest sign of this. The first national action across the NHS since 1988 is now on the cards.

It’s not just in the NHS or the civil service that workers are angry. There is thepotential for a powerful unity embracing a broad swathe of British workers.

Teachers were set to discuss pay at this weekend’s NUT union conference. Over a million local government workers have been offered a 2 percent “increase” at a time when inflation is 4.6 percent. Why should they take a 2.5 percent pay cut?

Many local government workers also face a worse pension, wage reductions under single status and job losses through spending cuts.

They’re hit by a double, triple or quadruple whammy.

Between 2004 and 2007 local government pay rose by only 8.9 percent – inflation was 9.3 percent and average earnings throughout the economy grew by 12.4 percent.

The lowest pay rate in local government is presently £5.80 an hour, only just above the national minimum wage (£5.52 from October).

Three quarters of the local government workforce are women. Over half of the workforce work part time.

Some 30 percent of all local government employees are on the lowest five pay points – and earn less than £12,747 a year. A further 30 percent get up to £15,825 a year.

This week another powerful group of workers has been pitched into the pay battle.

Postal workers are rumoured to have been told they can expect a three-year pay freeze, with the only increases coming from lump sum payments, efficiency “savings” and productivity increases – plus phantom shares and other gimmicks.

And the pension age will also rise to 65!

The CWU union national officials cannot confirm these details, and were holding further meetings with Royal Mail this week. But they have said, “It has become clear that whilst national negotiations have been continuing some Royal Mail managers have put forward proposals to introduce local efficiency agreements. 

“We have informed Royal Mail that this is completely unacceptable and will inevitably bring about conflict.

 “It is now essential that all CWU branches and local representatives support the position agreed by the national executive of non-cooperation at local level on efficiency and budget savings and changes to attendance times, until such time as a national agreement has been reached.”

With local post bosses pushing heavily for 10 percent cuts in office costs through efficiencies from this month, such a policy may soon lead to clashes.

At present the main section of postal workers gets a basic rate of £323.65 a week, almost £80 per week below the British average. They need a big rise in basic pay, not a freeze.

May Day is a great chance for public sector workers to unite around the PCS union’s strike and begin a real fight to smash Brown’s 2 percent limit.

For more on the NHS pay fight see Pay anger could lead to first nationwide action in NHS for 20 years

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