Socialist Worker

Growing bitterness over pay across every sector

Issue No. 2051

Health workers

Over a million workers for the NHS – Europe’s biggest employer – have been offered a 2.5 percent “pay rise” this year.

Gordon Brown is insisting that this is implemented in two stages – meaning that the increase works out at just 1.9 percent.

Last month’s health conference of the Unison union, the largest in the NHS, unanimously rejected the offer.

They voted instead for a campaign to achieve an above inflation offer.

The conference resolved to ballot members for industrial action, including strikes, if the government does not substantially improve its offer.

Health service unions are hoping to meet with Brown to see if they can persuade him to pay up – but he shows no sign he’s going to back off.


Postal workers

Royal Mail bosses have come up with what they call a “full and final offer” of a 2.5 percent increase on basic pay or a non-pensionable and taxable £600 lump sum as an alternative to the basic pay increase.

If that weren’t bad enough workers will be told to accept a series of ­conditions that will make their jobs worse.

In some cases they would be expected to do work as part of ­normal duties that presently they get extra money for.

Adam Crozier, Royal Mail group chief executive, pulled in a £1,038,000 last year.


Civil service workers

As the 2007 pay round begins, ­hundreds of thousands of civil service workers are still fighting for a decent rise for 2006.

Last year many of the 220 bargaining units in the civil service decided to impose below inflation offers without even conducting real negotiations with the PCS union – deciding in effect to make “no offer”.

The pay clampdown means that last year the average pay increase to civil service workers was just 3.5 percent, with some units having much lower awards forced upon them.

Over 20,000 PCS members in the Identity and Passport Service and the Ministry of Defence struck solidly across the country against below inflation pay deals in March this year.

In addition, on 1 May 250,000 civil service workers joined strike action in defence of their jobs.

Now the government is attempting to further undermine the fight for decent pay by bringing in local pay bargaining.

That means that workers doing the same job in offices just a few miles away from each other could be paid substantially different sums.

The PCS is fighting this attempt to divide civil service workers as the pay round for 2007 begins.


Teachers

The body that reviews teachers’ pay has been forced to take steps towards reopening negotiations over the current pay settlement – a two year deal that was imposed in September last year.

The School Teachers’ Review Body has agreed that the present RPI inflation figure of 4.8 percent has ­triggered the possibility of the pay deal being reviewed.

Teachers in England are due to receive an increase of 2.5 percent in September, following a similar increase last year.

If the government agrees, the review body will examine the increases for both years.

If the government refuses to reopen talks, it would hasten moves towards teachers’ strikes over pay.

Last month both of the main teaching union conferences backed strike ballots if their pay is held down.


Local government

Local government employers have made an initial pay offer to workers of just 2 percent this year, subject to further negotiations later this month.

The Unison union has put in for a 5 percent rise or a £1,000 flat rate increase, whichever is the higher, in a move designed to particularly benefit the lowest paid.

It seems likely that a final offer from the employers will be made in time for it to be discussed at the union’s national delegate conference in June. But no one is expecting a significant improvement on the initial offer.

The tensions over pay are likely to be intensified by job and pay cuts pushed through as a response to the “single status” pay deal. Local authorities have funded equal pay for men and women though pay and job cuts.


Private sector

Gordon Brown’s attempts to limit public sector pay settlements are being echoed by bosses in the private sector, who are desperate to increase their profits at the expense of workers.

In April this year the median (average) settlement in the private sector was just 3.5 percent, compared to a median settlement in the public sector of 3 percent.

Pay rises have been better than average in industries with strong union organisation, though the majority of deals are still significantly below inflation.


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