Tory millionaire and cabinet minister Oliver Letwin says that doctors, nurses and teachers need a reign of terror to make them work harder.
In an address to accountancy firm KPMG, he said: “You can’t have innovation and pressure for excellence without real discipline and fear that things may go wrong if they don’t live up to aims society demands of them.”
Letwin, who is in charge of deciding policy for the government, also said that job losses in education and health were an “inevitable and intended” consequence of government policy.
It was the latest blunt expression of the Tories’ contempt for public sector workers. It follows the announcement that pension cuts would steal over £1 billion from workers next year.
Union leaders said the moves were a tax on pensions.
Mark Serwotka, head of the PCS civil service union, said it was time to “build for more industrial action”.
He added, “The government figures confirm what we have said all along. People are going to have to pay more and work for longer, in return for smaller pensions.
“These highly detailed proposals show that the government has made its mind up and is not negotiating seriously.
“Already more trade unions have indicated they will take part in further strike action. This announcement will only increase that resolve.”
On 30 June, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including teachers, lecturers and civil service workers, struck against the pension attacks.
There is momentum building for wider action—for instance, firefighters are set to join the battle.
Their FBU union said a national firefighters’ strike over the plans “looks increasingly likely in the autumn”.
They are furious that their already high 11 percent contributions are set to rise to 14 percent. This alone will cost most firefighters more than £1,000 a year.
The government also wants to increase the pension age to 60 or over, raising the prospect of 60-year olds being forced to do firefighting duties.
The pension announcement has also received an angry response from those unions who have been most committed to not striking until the talks were completed.
Brian Strutton of the GMB union accused ministers of breaking their “solemn pledge” to pay the pensions of public-sector workers.
And Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, “These talks are being put in jeopardy by the crude and naive tactics of government ministers who do not seem to understand the word negotiate.”
There is a growing mood on the ground for united action against the attacks.
Jess Edwards, a teacher in south London, told Socialist Worker, “The government has shown, for the second time, that it is not committed to the negotiation process.
“It also confirmed that the Tories want to go to war with public sector workers.”
She rejected government attempts to divide well-paid and low-paid public sector workers saying, “The truth is that the majority of us earn the average or below”.
“Teachers may earn over £20,000 a year, but we will be forced to pay hundreds of pounds more each year on our pensions—some as much as £100 a month.
“With prices going up, jobs being cut and wages frozen, that means people struggling to make ends meet. And if you do earn less then it is even tougher.”
She added, “This is an argument for us uniting and not letting the government divide us.
“The 30 June strike was a good start—now we need more action, involving more unions and more workers. We are going to have to be very determined to win. But we have numbers on our side.”