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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