Unions must unite to help defeat the public sector pay cap and secure decent pay rises for all public sector workers, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told TUC Congress in Brighton this afternoon (11).
Mark, who spoke to second composite motion 9 on public services and pay moved by Unison, highlighted our union’s activities on pay, particularly our ballot of all 161,000 public sector workers in PCS.
Mark told Congress that there is a crisis in public sector pay.
“Civil service pay has fallen by 10% in real terms - now is the time for action,” he said.
Mark described the “appalling pay statistics in the civil service,” with the average PCS member £3,500 worse off because of pay restraint, and if the cap lasts until 2020 members will be 20% worse off than in 2020.
Mark said public sector unions must “guard against cynical attempts to divide and rule”. He hoped that other unions would join us in balloting their members and put pressure on a weak Tory government to scrap the cap or take coordinated action if they refused.
“We need pay rises for every single public sector worker but there is no point scrapping the cap without putting in funding,” he said.
Mark called on the TUC to coordinate collective action and campaigns, including industrial action, to end public sector pay restraint across the UK.
“Let's take united action to put money into our members' pockets and to defeat this weak Tory government,” he added to loud applause.
Mark also paid tribute to the NHS staff that looked after him as he underwent a life-saving heart transplant last year and said they along with all public sector workers deserve a decent pay rise.
Mark had made the call for coordinated action on pay at a lunchtime fringe meeting organised by the Trade Union Coordinating Group.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told congress: “There is no more pressing issue. After vicious attacks on our public services by a government who doesn't seem to care about public services. We as a trade union movement have a duty to fight.
He described the devastating impact of pay restraint on public sector workers.
“A quarter of trade union members don't know how they would cope with an unexpected expense,” he said. “And it is getting worse. Inflation is three times the level of pay rises.
“We need unity - one plan of action. Yes it is about the police, but it is also about PCSOs. Yes, it is about nurses, but it also about care workers,” he added.
Ian Murray of the FBU said: “We all know that a Tory government will give working people nothing without a fight, now is the time to get better organised and get all of our members the pay rise they deserve.”
David Baker of the EIS said public sector workers need to “show this government our collective strength.”
Patrick Roach of NASUWT said that “we must deliver pay justice for all workers”.
The motion, which called for an immediate end to the public sector pay cap, recognised that all public sector workers deserve a pay rise, and that a united public sector-wide campaign is the best way to pressurise the chancellor to end the pay gap. The motion also said that the NHS needs a major injection of cash to ensure that it can provide the high quality care for patients that staff desperately want to provide.
Gail Cartmail of Unite said Britain needs pay rises and a real living wage, but not the phoney imitations of Cameron and May.
"Enough is enough. We will organise, we will mobilise and we will win," she said.
Joe Simpson of the POA said: "The government said they will lift the pay cap for prison officers. But they have not said if that is across the board.
"We need our prisons safe, decent and secure."
Real-terms wage cut
Public sector workers have suffered a real-terms cut in wages arising from a deliberate policy by UK, and devolved administrations, to implement a combination of pay freezes and pay caps for the majority of public sector workers.
The government imposed a two-year pay freeze on public sector workers in 2010, followed by a 1% cap on the pay of firefighters, nurses, teachers, civil servants and other public sector workers. Current ministers have said that “nothing has changed” on the cap, despite inflation of 3% or more.
The motion highlighted the pay squeeze suffered by private and public sector workers since the 2007/08 financial crash and the ongoing severe cuts to the services that our communities rely upon, with close to one million job cuts since 2010 and further austerity planned by the Tory government. The government’s pursuit of an agenda of deregulation, privatisation and attacks on workers’ rights has increased pay inequality, discrimination and exploitation.
The government’s attitude towards hard-working public sector workers has left many workers struggling to make ends meet and rely on food banks.
The motion welcomed the TUC report, Lift the Cap, which explains the impact of the pay cap on living standards. The TUC estimates that public sector workers have lost between £2,000 and £5,000 in real terms as a result of the Westminster government’s pay policy.
The general election showed that the electorate is increasingly concerned and angered by the government’s insistence on pursuing its austerity agenda, regardless of the consequences.
The motion, which was passed unanimously, instructed the TUC to organise:
- a national demonstration in support of our demands
- a lobby of parliament
- a large-scale public meeting in Westminster
- convene rallies and other public events in major towns and cities across the country.
Find out more about the PCS pay campaign.