The pay revolt is on – and we have the power to win. That was the message sent out by some 650,000 council workers as they began two days of strike action on Wednesday this week.
There was anger and defiance on the picket lines – but also a fresh spirit of solidarity. Cleaners, refuse workers, teachers and others decided not to cross picket lines, driving a coach and horses through the anti-union laws.
Even greater numbers are set to hit the streets this autumn. Teachers, lecturers, civil service workers and postal workers could all join council workers in challenging Gordon Brown’s pay policy.
The prime minister’s only response is to bleat on about how we should all accept his below-inflation pay limits. In plain speech, he is calling for us to accept a cut in our living standards. Wage rises are falling behind price rises across both the private and public sector.
Current predictions are that the official inflation rate will climb above the 5 percent mark later this year. The Bank of England reassures us things might get a bit better – but only after April 2010!
Prices are now rising at their fastest rate in over 25 years. Inflation figures released this week showed the government’s preferred measure running at 3.8 percent.
But the actual price of feeding a family is rocketing upwards at a far greater rate. A typical weekly food bill costs over 10 percent more than it did last year.
Groceries such as butter have gone up in price by almost a third. Bread, cheese and milk are almost a fifth higher than last year.
The Joseph Rowntree Trust revealed recently that a single person needs to earn £13,400 for a basic standard of living. Some 390,000 council workers don’t even earn that amount. The vast majority of them are women.
These are workers that look after our old people, clean our streets and feed our children. They are not responsible for rising food and energy prices.
But they will be asked to pay the cost for the damage that financiers and speculators have caused.
That’s why we should all support this pay revolt – and that’s why we should stoke up the spirit of rebellion that is evident across the country.