Socialist Worker

'We're sick of getting low pay'

Issue No. 1819

MANY WORKERS across Britain who are fed up with low pay are preparing to go on strike. They do vital jobs. These workers put out fires, help schools and hospitals to run, and teach students at further education colleges. But their pay has not increased alongside the soaring rents, mortgages, bills and travel costs.

This means many workers are struggling to get by. A fully qualified firefighter's annual pay is £21,531 to work 42 hours a week on round the clock shifts. Yet a police officer who isn't even at the level of sergeant gets £29,062 for just 36.2 hours a week, and has hefty overtime payments on top. A care assistant looking after elderly people in a home can get as little as £10,000 a year.

No wonder workers who need decent pay are uniting to take strike action. From late October through November firefighters across Britain, further education lecturers, and 160,000 workers in public services who are now employed by private firms, could all strike together. In London even more groups of workers are preparing to fight back over pay. They want a rise in the meagre payment they get called London weighting, an allowance for the extra costs of living and working in the capital.

London council workers are already set to strike on Tuesday of next week, and are planning more action. London teachers are set to ballot for another one-day strike after they struck, and 10,000 joined a demonstration in March. Admin workers in some of London's universities were due to strike on Thursday. Their fellow admin workers in the rest of London's universities, as well as the lecturers, are discussing action over the same issue.

Workers on London Underground are also planning more strikes over their pay unless their bosses give them the rise they deserve. This shows how the anger we all feel at being over worked and underpaid, with a bullying boss breathing down our necks, can boil over. New Labour is horrified at the idea that we might all say enough is enough, and follow these workers' example.

So they and their friends in the media want to try to undermine popular support for these battles. They argue there isn't enough money for pay rises. What a cheek.

Tony Blair has quickly found £1 billion extra for the defence budget. There is money for weapons to kill Iraqi people, but not for a school caretaker to get decent pay.

If the firefighters or London Underground workers win over pay, they will set a marker for other low paid workers to aim for. No one should believe New Labour's lies that paying one group of workers means robbing from another.

That is why it is important everyone should support the workers striking over pay. If these struggles over pay are combined with the feeling against the government over their war, then we have a chance of winning on every front.


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Sat 28 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1819
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