Socialist Worker

Workers 'living hand to mouth' hold national protests over public sector pay cap

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2548

Civil service workers in Leeds taking part in the PCS union day of action against the pay cap

Civil service workers in Leeds taking part in the PCS union day of action against the pay cap (Pic: Mike McGrath)


Civil service workers in the PCS union took part in a national day of action against low public sector pay today, Friday.

It was called in response to the government’s long running 1 percent public sector pay cap. The cap means civil service workers have had a real terms pay cut of up to nine percent since 2010—and could lose as much as 20 percent by 2020.

The action came after news this week that average weekly earnings were higher in the private sector than in the public sector for the first time since 2008.

As many as 50 civil service workers joined a PCS rally outside the Treasury building in central London.

Andy Roach, who works for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was at the rally. He told Socialist Worker that he earned so little that he couldn’t even afford to live on his own.

“I’m 49 years old and I live with my parents. Not out of choice but out of necessity,” he said.

Costs

“I thought I would be able to afford my own place at this point in my life. But look at how much you need for a deposit for a mortgage, or the amount it costs to rent. I can’t get on the social housing list in any borough.”

He added, “I probably speak for a lot of people. Someone else here said they’re living hand to mouth. You get paid and it almost all goes straight on living costs.”

PCS branches across Britain held lunchtime protests and rallies outside their workplaces. Rallies in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool saw about 40 people on each.

There were also around 20 people at a rally in Birmingham city centre and rallies in Bootle, Leeds, Nottingham and Cardiff also had good turnouts.

Although the protests were over pay, many of the workers were also angry at increasing workloads and stress caused by job cuts.

One civilian worker from the Met Police told the rally, “After 30 years I can’t believe how demoralised I feel.

“They’ve outsourced so many people—they’ve outsourced our finance, even our cleaners and our canteen workers. Where does it stop? Is there going to be any of us left?”

PCS president Janice Godrich said the next step was for people to “go back to your colleagues, tell them what the PCS is doing. Raise awareness, take the campaign forward.”

Andy said there had to be more action. “PCS needs to mobilise its members,” he said. “When you mobilise you get encouraged.


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