Twenty-two thousand police on the streets!

Ah, what a day it was… and what an editorial in the Star:

NO-ONE knows if the Stop the War Coalition was alerted to provide an objective count of the number of police officers taking part in yesterday’s pay protest.

And the Police Federation’s close relationship with the Metropolitan Police public order team probably eliminated the need for sacked miners to be deputised to exercise strict control of the marching police.

Looking on the bright side, any protesting police officers falling foul of the law are unlikely to be locked up for a long time, if only because Justice Minister Jackboot Straw seems to be looking for an excuse to jail the entire leadership of the Prison Officers Association over their own insistence on trade union rights.

There are any amount of wry comments to be made about a situation where the government has alienated the body on which it counts for keeping tabs on the rest of the working class.

But, when the grins evaporate, there is a serious political point to be made.

Police officers are working people who lost their trade union rights 90 years ago when they went on strike, suffered mass victimisation and were reorganised on the basis of military discipline.

Since then, their pay has been decided centrally without joint negotiation.

More recently, it has been the subject of awards by the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal.

When the tribunal awarded a 2.5 per cent settlement, the government intervened, staging it, with the effect of shrinking its annual value to 1.9 per cent.

The same shabby trick was imposed on other public-service workers, including health staff and prison officers, and it is no more acceptable in their case than it is for the police.

The Prime Minister and his Little Sir Echo in the Treasury, Alistair Darling, claim that this penny-pinching imposition of what amounts effectively to a wage cut is necessary in order to combat inflation.

They know that this is a lie. Any effect on inflation would be infinitesimal.

Increased interest rates, with their knock-on effects on mortgages, affect inflation, as do the rocketing costs of petrol, gas, electricity and council tax.

And all of these are directly or indirectly linked to government policies, by means of foreign wars, privatisation or freezing of local authority finance grants.

The government is not acting in ignorance. It knows what it is doing.

It is striving single-mindedly to secure a decisive switch in the proportion of national income devoted to the private sector and the public sector, between the rich and the poor.

Its public-sector pay restraint is at one with its privatisation agenda, with its encouragement of obscene bonus levels paid to City bosses and with its refusal to curb the greed of the privateers.

It is in service to the rich.

According to Downing Street, the PM thinks that “police officers do an excellent job, but we have had to take some tough decisions” on police pay.

So that’s tough decisions on police and other public servants’ pay and an ever-open cheque book for incompetent greedy bankers such as Northern Wreck.

No wonder that working-class support is oozing away from Labour and making the nightmare of a Cameron-led Tory government more likely.

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