Getting hot under the collar about the public sector pay freeze

“It’s quite incredible that traditionally non-militant sections of the trade union movement are now taking industrial action.”

So says Graham Henderson, president of Prospect, the scientific and technical union, in today’s Morning Star.

He’s right of course, it is incredible. But not exactly unexpected.

The police aren’t raising the threat of industrial action because they’ve become Trotskyists – but because the government is imposing a pay freeze in the public sector, ripping up arbitration, and using the capitalist press to divide working people.

Consider the allegation that giving the police their backdated pay award would mean less cash for counter-terrorism. What next? Will nurses demanding fair pay be denied it on the grounds that it would be a drain on the NHS, resulting in patient fatalities. (I wouldn’t put it past New Labour…)

Of course, the terror trick was not sprung, exactly. They were caught conspiring.

Now dig this:

Police support workers have been offered a pay rise of 2.5%, backdated to September, the same deal being fought for by police officers.

The offer, to 71,000 staff in England and Wales, include those working as custody, forensics and police community support officers.

The 2.5% deal offered to police officers is due to begin in December.

A Commons home affairs select committee said the rise for police in England and Wales should also be backdated.

The government has agreed to the rise but not to backdate it to September, saying this meets its inflation target.

Ben Priestley of Unison said this year’s police staff pay negotiations have been undertaken “within an increasingly challenging political and policy environment”.

He said: “Under these circumstances, we are putting the 2.5% offer to members as the best achievable by negotiation.

“At the same time, we call upon the home secretary to do the right thing and honour in full the 2.5% awarded to police officers as a result of their arbitration.

“By treating police officers and police staff pay differently, the government risks undoing all the good work over the last 10 years to build a unified police service.

“Police staff and police officers work side by side to protect our communities – they do not want to be divided over pay.”

And from the Star, news that the TUC has been forced into some low-key co-ordinated action in the form of… a protest outside parliament to put pressure on Brown:

TRADE union leaders spoke up for fair public-service pay outside Parliament on Tuesday.

Nurses, paramedics, firemen and coastguards also turned out for the launch of the TUC Speak Up for Public Services campaign – complete with megaphone-shaped placards.

Public-sector workers have faced effective pay cuts this year as new Labour imposed below-inflation pay settlements, often against the advice of independent pay review bodies.

All 26 TUC-affiliated unions have signed a statement urging ministers to accept the pay review bodies’ recommendations.

It warns of increasing anger among public-service workers, which led to a wave of strike ballots earlier this year.

TUC leader Brendan Barber said: “I hope we’re going to see a new approach from government, rather than the disastrous one they’ve taken so far.”

General union GMB national secretary Brian Strutton stormed: “It’s politically, economically and socially inept to cut the pay of workers in local government, health, education and other public services.

“It’s an attack on the public sector-core of trade union membership at a time when the Labour government needs all the friends it can get.”

The TUC also published a report into public-sector pay, entitled Six Million Pay Cuts, which demolishes government claims that public-sector pay is driving inflation and that holding down wages would bring it under control.

Mr Barber insisted: “It’s not public-sector pay that’s driving up inflation, so it’s quite wrong to tell six million public-sector workers to take a cut in living standards.

“We don’t need boom and bust in public-sector pay any more than we do in the wider economy.”

Asked if he thought that a cut in workers’ pay would exacerbate the predicted economic downturn, Mr Barber answered: “Yes. And it would be wrong to expect low-paid public-sector workers to bear the brunt of any downturn at a time when those at the top are taking huge pay rises.”

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Party leadership and party policy – South Africa and England compared

zuma.jpg

No, this post is not about Jacob Zuma (the picture above illustrates what the Western worries are, for the spectre of communism is haunting the “end of history“).

I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t like to use this blog to comment on affairs outside of the Anglo-Celtic Isles. One must have an aim and stick to it – mine is to examine English politics.

So, whilst Zuma’s election reflects the growing strength of working class opposition to the neoliberal consensus in South Africa and is a positive development, I won’t be saying any more.

The leadership election in England today was for the Liberal Democrats – the ideologically feeble third-party of “British” as well as English politics.

The winner, one Nick Clegg, whom I rudely referred to earlier today as “David Cleggeron”, is an Orange Booker.

What does this mean?

The FT tries to explain:

Mr Clegg, a 40-year-old former MEP from the right of his party, won 20,988 votes to edge past Mr Huhne, who amassed 20,477 votes through a tenacious outsider’s campaign.

The lack of a resounding endorsement from the party’s left-leaning activists may make it harder for Mr Clegg to establish his authority and pursue more radical public service reforms to extend choice and diversity.

Now, understand that “choice and diversity” refers not to what is offered to service users and providers, but rather the fat cat corporations that are hungry for some guaranteed profits from the state…

Greenman gives us the lowdown from our perspective:

The chink of light is that there might be a hung parliament at the next election. This might give an opportunity for the Lib Dems to force through (as their main demand when the post-election discussions begin) a referendum on the introduction of a form of PR. This is one of the few uses for which that particular political party is fit – and something the leadership would presumably find it difficult to trade away given its’ totemic value to the bulk of their membership.

I expect Clegg will have to walk the tightrope between his economic liberalism and his need to assuage the party’s left – so, this means out-playing Cameron as “progressive“, downplaying the neoliberal aspects as a consequence. He’s done this already during the campaign, backing away from his previous support for NHS privatisation. That’s total privatisation, note.

In light of Toque’s analysis, I may have to reverse ferret on my prediction the next Liberal leader would pounce upon the English Question and come out for devolution to be extended to England. We’ll have to see if Clegg will continue to be as evasive as he has thusfar…

David Cleggeron is new Liberal leader

Nick Clegg

Is that Dave the Chameleon?

No it’s Chris Clegg.

I’m sorry, I mean David Cleggeron.

Sorry again, it’s Nick Clegg.

For sure, we now have three Tory parties in England…

Clegg’s for nuclear weapons, privatisation, and the EU. Sound familiar?

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Charlie Palloy:

Tom Waits:

George Michael:

Judy Collins:

Bing Crosby:

Belated justice for pensions’ victims

Finally, the government does a u-turn:

Campaigners have welcomed a £2.9bn rescue package for 140,000 workers who lost their pensions when their companies went bust.
Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain has set out plans to restore 90% of the value of their pensions.

That brings them in line with other workers covered by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The boost follows a sustained campaign from workers, and criticism from MPs, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and others.

Peter Hain said the money would deliver justice to workers “cruelly robbed” of their pensions “through no fault of their own”.

As yesterday’s Morning Star editorial has it, the government was forced to do right:

The leaders of Unite and Community, plus the workers themselves, have every right to hail their victory – the announcement has lightened the load for many of them – but one wonders why Mr Hain feels comfortable joining in the celebrations. The agreement is one that has only been reached because the unions refused to let the issue go. At every step, they have had to cajole and shame this new Labour government into providing pensions justice for what should be its core constituents. Most of the blame for this lies at the feet of Gordon Brown who, as chancellor, dragged his feet over the compensation plan. Mr Hain has had to apply severe pressure to the Treasury to resolve this issue, painfully aware that those unions who have supported him throughout his career were looking on.

Contrast the Treasury’s foot-dragging when it came to saving 140,000 workers from penury with its alacrity in the case of the Northern Rock bank. There was no hesitation here – the bankers squealed and the government rushed to their rescue, generously flinging over £25 billion of our money in their direction. The Blair and Brown governments have become notorious for their parsimony towards those whom the Labour Party was created to represent, while showing unbridled generosity to the rich and powerful.

Now that New Labour is behind in the polls, there may be more capitulations – but no one will be fooled. Brown could’ve done this years ago and everyone knows it’s happening now because the government is desparate for some good headlines.

I find it interesting that Cameron’s New Tories aren’t that comfortable in their Thactheresque opinion poll lead over Labour. This weekend’s proposed alliance with the Greens and Liberals – turned down by both parties – may come back to haunt Dave the Chameleon…