For the second time in six weeks, NHS workers staged a four-hour strike from 7am to 11am on November 24th. They are angry because their already low pay is being eroded even more due to government cuts. Darrall Cozens, President of the Coventry TUC, comments how, under capitalism, it is those such as the low paid NHS workers who will pay the price of a crisis that they did not cause.
For the second time in six weeks, NHS workers staged a four-hour strike from 7am to 11am on November 24th. They are angry because their already low pay is being eroded even more due to government cuts. Even the recommendation of the NHS Pay Review Body of a measly 1% consolidated rise for all health workers has been ignored by the Coalition.
Unison – the union for NHS workers – wants the rise to be paid to all as well as a living wage of £7.85 an hour for low-paid staff, an above inflation pay rise for 2015-16, and a commitment that future pay rises will restore the value of NHS pay.
To make matters worse, the government has told the Pay Review Body that it cannot recommend an increase for next year, and the last time that NHS workers got a pay rise which kept up with the cost of living was in 2009.
Deficit increases despite coalition cuts
Yet again it is low paid workers who are in the firing line of government policies as it seeks to reduce the budget deficit by making working class people pay. Yet the more the government cuts, the less the deficit is reduced. When this austerity for the poor and low paid started in 2010, the deficit was £170bn. After all the cuts that have happened, the deficit still hovers around £100bn.
The government claims that its policies are working as many new jobs have been created. Yet two-thirds of these new jobs pay less than the living wage and those who have become self-employed are earning on average 13% less than five years ago. So many get such a pitiful wage that they don’t even earn enough to pay tax!
So the deficit reduction programme is in tatters and the only answer that the government has is to impose even more cuts on top of those already in the pipeline. The future is indeed bleak for working class people in this downward spiral.
No alternative from the Labour leaders
Given this scenario you would think that the Labour Party, nominally a party of labour, would have an alternative plan to ensure that its core bedrock of support would not be made to pay for a crisis it did not cause. Far from it! Labour promises a more humane, a more equitable programme of cuts to reduce the budget deficit – but it is still a cuts programme.
We could not expect anything else as Labour seeks to protect the basic premise that capitalism is here to stay, that all must be done to save it from its own excesses. Labour has no vision of an alternative society where the wealth that working people create is used for the benefit of all and not for the small number of really rich at the top.
On the card of every LP member it states that through our “common endeavour” we will create a community “in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few”. This aim is a massive step backward from the original Clause IV, Part IV; but it is still an aim, albeit modest. Yet given the recurrent crises in capitalism, with a new and more devastating one looming on the horizon, even these modest aims are unachievable.
Capitalism = inequality
Capitalism is the antithesis of equality, of a redistribution of wealth and power. Capitalism means an ever increasing concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands and no amount of tinkering with it can alter this fact. That is why in the UK five families have a combined income equal to the bottom 20% of the population, some 12.6 million people. Or on a world scale, the top 85 richest individuals have amassed the same wealth as half of humanity, some 3.5bn people.
While this system continues it will be the poorest sections of society such as the low paid NHS workers who will pay the price of a crisis that they did not cause.