Socialist Worker

Hundreds demonstrate against the pay cap

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2576

Firefighters were a lively part of the protest

Firefighters were a lively part of the protest (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Anger against the Tories' 1 percent public sector pay cap was on the streets of central London on Tuesday night.

According to the TUC union federation some 1,000 trade unionists marched from Downing Street to join a TUC protest in Parliament Square. They chanted, "What do we want? Scrap the cap. When do we want it? Now!"

Yasmin, a PCS civil service workers' union member in London, told Socialist Worker, "Its absolutely disgraceful—what the lower and middle grades are taking home is tiny."

PCS is holding a consultative ballot asking members if they'd be willing to strike to breach the pay cap. Yasmin said, "I'd absolutely strike, I'm telling members to vote in the ballot.

"It's been quite hard in the recent few months, but that's changed recently and things like the protest tonight all help encourage the ballot."

PCS leader Mark Serwotka told marchers, "We are determined to fight for a pay rise for every single public sector worker".

The UCU union plans to ballot some further education colleges after 75 percent of members backed industrial action in a consultative ballot.

Leaders of public sector trade unions stood together. Can they strike together?

Leaders of public sector trade unions stood together. Can they strike together? (Pic: Guy Smallman)


There is a possibility that some unions could coordinate industrial action. As Mandy Brown from the UCU told crowd at Downing Street, "All the unions are at different stages over pay.

"But this is about the start of campaigning that I hope will see coordinated strikes to end the pay freeze."

The rally came as the Tories tried to divide unions' opposition to the pay cap. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed he scrapped the pay cap for health workers—but refused to stump up any new money for a pay rise.

Jill Walton from the midwives' RCM said, "Jeremy Hunt claims he's lifted the pay cap. But that's not good enough. We need a real pay rise."

Claire, a Unison union member at Whittington Hospital in north London, told Socialist Worker, "The health unions are supposed to be putting in a joint pay claim of 3.9 percent and £800. 

"If there's no change in the budget then we've all got to have industrial action to smash the pay cap.

"We've got to fight for it—there is no alternative."

With Theresa May's government weak and divided, strikes could not only break the pay cap but break the Tories

With inflation hitting a five year high, now is the time to fight for above inflation pay rises not just lifting the cap.

Some unions are hoping to wait for a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government.

Gail Cartmail from the Unite union told the Tories to "step aside" for a Labour government that would lift the cap.

But there's nothing inevitable about the Tories' falling and Labour leaders have said they would not give above-inflation pay rises.

At the TUC rally Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, "When the time comes—as it will—to strike I want see everyone on the picket lines with us."

That time has come—the unions need to ballot their members. With Theresa May's government weak and divided, strikes could not only break the pay cap but break the Tories.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.