Gordon Brown and Chancellor Darling are trying to cut public sector pay and impose three year pay deals. Why?
They say they are worried about inflation. Anyone who lives in the real world will have noticed that petrol and bread and milk have gone up in price recently. But is this because teachers’ or civil servants’ pay is spiralling out of control? Of course not. In the first place public sector pay settlements were very moderate last year. Secondly only economic illiterates (as the Prime Minister and Chancellor seem to be) could argue that public sector pay deals make the price of bread and milk go up.
The fact is that the government has got itself into a pickle. Now they need to rein in public spending. They have the biggest government budget deficit in Europe. So much for prudence! So they propose that public sector workers who will get it in the neck because they’ve made a hash of running the economy.
Why do they want three year pay deals? Is it because they’ve got inflation licked? On the contrary. It’s because inflation is out of their control. Three year deals are a deliberate ploy to cut the living standards of ordinary workers. That is why the government has refused to index the proposed pay deals to the actual inflation rate. New Labour wants the public sector workers to pay the price for inflation that is none of their fault. At the same time Gordon Brown says he can’t do anything about obscene city bonuses.
The government says the pay deals are to be based on a projected inflation rate of 2%. As a ‘concesson’ they have offered the teachers 2.45% this year. Do they think unions are living in cloud cuckoo land? Last year the Retail Price Index went up by 4.1%. Inflation’s rising all the time.
The teachers’ union leaders say they’re not having it. Local authority workers say they want 6%. Fine words. The union leaders should be all meeting together and preparing to resist the offer with strike action. What is needed is a unified movement of all the public sector unions to throw out the proposals. This is what didn’t happen last year. This is what is needed for 2008.