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We can smash Tories’ pay cap

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Issue 2576
Nurses join a Royal College of Nurses protest outside Downing Street in July
Nurses join a Royal College of Nurses protest outside Downing Street in July (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers rallied against the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay cap as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

The TUC union federation’s protest outside parliament came as new inflation figures showed workers’ living standards took a further hit last month.

The bosses’ favoured CPI rate of inflation hit a five year high of 3 percent—and the RPI rate is almost 4 percent.

This means workers whose pay is capped will see an even bigger “real terms” pay cut.


Civil service workers and further education (FE) lecturers are leading the way with ballots that could lead to strikes.

The UCU union is set to ballot workers for strikes in some FE colleges after bosses only offered a 1 percent rise.

It follows a 75 percent vote for action in a consultation.

And civil service workers in the PCS union began a consultative ballot over pay on Monday of last week. The ballot, set to end on 6 November, should be a stepping stone towards national strikes across the civil service.

PCS activists should organise the campaign as if it were a real strike vote.

In many places where activists have organised, they’ve found they’ve struck a chord.

One PCS activist in Manchester told Socialist Worker, “There’s clearly something boiling away.

“Some members seem like they’d be up for throwing up a picket line tomorrow because they’ve just had enough.”

She added, “Managers are just putting their foot in it. Our CEO came to my office and said we should be grateful with 1 percent. This is a woman on £120,000 a year.”

Pete, a PCS activist in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker that some 100 people turned up to a lunchtime meeting last Wednesday.

“The campaign is helping to build a new network of activists across the city,” he said.

There are plans by a city-wide campaign group to leaflet every civil service workplace in Birmingham

When unions give workers a lead, there is a mood to fight over the pay cap.

Some 300 people from all the large unions marched against the pay cap in Norwich last Saturday.


Last week Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he had “scrapped” the pay cap for health workers.

He did not promise any new funding or above-inflation pay rises—meaning it would still be a pay cut.

And any pay rise would be linked to “productivity increases”—management speak for making NHS workers do more for the same pay.

But the Royal College of Nursing’s leadership hailed it as a “victory” and seem to see it as enough to lift its threat of industrial action.

While Theresa May’s government is in deep trouble, there’s nothing inevitable about the Tories falling.

Unions should reject the Tories’ divide and rule tactics—and fight for real pay rises now.

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