Socialist Worker

Half a million children in poverty because of Tory pay and benefit cuts

Issue No. 2592

PCS union members protested over pay earlier this month

PCS union members protested over pay on 31 January (Pic: PCS)


One in seven children of public sector workers will be living in poverty by the end of next month, unions are warning.

Research by the TUC found that the Tories’ cap on public sector pay as well as in-work benefit cuts were pushing tens of thousands of children below the poverty line.

Around 550,000 children living with a public sector worker in the family will be classed as being in poverty by the end of the current financial year, said the TUC.

The research also found:

  • Families where both parents work in the public sector are the biggest losers from the government’s pay restrictions and benefit changes. Their average household income will be down £83 each week in real terms by April 2018 compared to 2010.
  • Households where one parent works in the public sector and another works in the private sector will lose on average £53 a week.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said, “The government's pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts are causing needless hardship.

“Public servants shouldn't have to worry about feeding or clothing their kids. But many are struggling to afford even the basics.

“Ministers must give public sector workers the pay rise they have earned. If they don't, more families will fall into poverty.”

Pennies

Unison's assistant general secretary Christina McAnea added, “Poor pay has left many public sector families desperately watching the pennies.

“A career helping and caring for others was never going to make millionaires of NHS, school and council staff, but none of them would have expected to be so hard up after years of public service, and for their children to be the ones that suffer.”

The TUC said an individual was considered to be in relative poverty if their household income was less than 60 percent of median income.

The figures are shocking. But they won’t shift unless there is resistance.

Everywhere

There has to be a fight over pay in every part of the public sector—health, schools, local government, the civil service and everywhere else.

Local government workers in the Unison, Unite and GMB unions are being consulted over a two-year deal of 2 percent this year and 2 percent next year.

That means a continuation of below-inflation settlements, and therefore pay cuts. It has to be rejected, and union leaders should be pushing hard to achieve that.

The ballot results for action—soon to lead to strikes—in the universities and Further Education, demonstrate that workers can be won to a fightback.

The PCS union won a consultative ballot among its members last year for rejection of low pay. It’s time to turn that into a vote for strikes.

Anger has to lead to action.


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