WORKERS ACROSS ALL PUBLIC SERVICES have suffered over seven years of pay restraint at the hands of successive Tory governments. Civil and public servants keep our country running. Yet this government treats them so shamefully that they have to campaign for conditions that every worker should take for granted. This includes security and stability at work and decent pay to feed their families and make ends meet.
The pay cap has already had a devastating effect on the value of the incomes of public sector workers. PCS research shows that because of pay policy average civil service pay will have fallen in value by over 20% by 2020. I am proud we fought austerity pay from the beginning and even more proud of our members leading the fight against a policy opposed by the vast majority of the public. Recent polling by the TUC reveals the extent of support for lifting the public sector pay cap and investing in our public services. A clear majority - 68% - of Conservative voters say they back ending “restrictions on pay increases for public sector workers”.
Similarly, when asked to choose between “maintaining decent public services” even if it means putting up taxes, or keeping taxes low if it means “squeezing them to find savings”, more people support increasing taxes, even Tory voters.
Clearly people value public services and are willing to invest in both the services and the workers who keep them running. Depriving public servants of a pay rise for seven years is not only unfair, it is counterproductive.
When the government pays its own workforce decently, the whole country benefits from the increased tax revenue generated. Tax is on average 39% overall, so well over a third of any pay rise for public sector workers returns to government coffers. Workers then spend most of their wages, meaning more money goes into the economy, locally. When the economy is stagnating and uncertainty is affecting growth, this is more vital than ever.
Yet the Tory government still insists there is no possibility of an end to the pay cap, and continues to treat their own workers with utter contempt. The Tories spent the election period praising public sector workers. But the message since has been clear - the government doesn’t value them enough to give them a wage rise.
PCS will hold a consultative ballot among members hit by the 1% public sector pay cap during the autumn to send a clear, united message to the government. We’ll be building a campaign ahead of the November budget, with a series of activities. The joint union demonstration on pay on 12th October and a TUC-led lobby of Parliament on 17th October will keep the pressure up on a weakened Tory government.
But we are clear that a united public sector wide campaign is the best way to pressurise the government to end the pay cap for all. We need to step up joint campaigning before the autumn budget. The PCS motion to TUC congress sets out clear steps to achieve this.
We have shown that with joint campaigning we can win. In response to our pay campaign, the Scottish government has now said it will end the pay cap in 2018, and we will hold them to that commitment. The Tory government no longer has a mandate to continue with the pay cap. We must use this TUC congress to develop a co-ordinated strategy to ensure that every public sector worker – and not just a select few – gets the pay rise they urgently deserve.
is General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union