Socialist Worker

Strikes can bust public sector pay cap

Issue No. 2570

Health workers on strike in 2014

Health workers on strike in 2014  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Tories are rumoured to be preparing to lift the 1 percent public sector pay cap—at least for some workers.

And the Scottish government planned to do it this week. The cap has caused the value of workers’ wages to fall in real terms over the last seven years.

Nurses’ pay has dropped by 14 percent. Teachers have lost an average of £5,000 a year, according to the Labour Party.

Lifting the cap could give millions of workers a much needed pay boost. But we shouldn’t think this will be a straightforward gain.

One Treasury source said, “Lifting the cap and how we pay for it is the biggest domestic issue for us this autumn.”

The Tories will likely raid some other pot of money that will hit ordinary people for any rise they do concede.

And lifting the cap won’t make up for seven years of real terms cuts. Millions will still be worse off than they were in 2010, even with a pay rise in line with the 2.6 percent inflation rate. And the Tories may try to drag out any rises for years to come.

Union leaders haven’t led nearly enough resistance over pay and other attacks. But fear that ordinary people are close to the limit of what they will put up with has pushed the Tories to lift the cap.

Actual resistance can force a lot more out of them—and win above inflation rises for all. We should demand the unions lead it.


 


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