15 November 2021

With resolve, we can overcome these challenges

Mark Serwotka says as we head into the winter months, there’s never been a more urgent need for a trade union campaign to stop the government’s relentless attack on your standard of living. In the chancellor’s budget in October it was made clear that this government is not just content with failing to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, they are going to make it worse.

The budget has been widely condemned as one that will see millions of people across the UK worse off. This follows the previous 12 years of falling pay, which has been the worst period for wage growth since Napoleonic times. For PCS members, this period has seen the average civil servant worse off by £2,300 a year – and you’re still overpaying into your pensions by 2%.

To make matters worse for working-class people: inflation could hit 5% next year; gas prices have increased and are set to skyrocket again in April; National Insurance will be hiked by 1.25 percentage points; millions have been hit by the appalling cut to Universal Credit and many more will be impacted by a council tax rise. This represents a totally unprecedented attack on your standard of living.

The much-lauded end to the public sector pay freeze is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The lack of key details, such as whether the rise will be above inflation and where the money for the raises will come from, is a major concern. This government has a track record of treating its own workers with contempt and this looks set to continue.

Laying out these challenges is one thing, but our job now as a union, and as a movement, is to overcome them.

What our members need is a campaign that will force the government to take the necessary action that not only makes up for the decade’s long reduction in your living standards but ensures they improve now and in the future.

Public sector unions have committed to getting together quickly to build and grow a campaign to persuade the government to stop the relentless attacks on your livelihoods. Given their behaviour in the past, we should be ready to pressure them through legal challenges and, if necessary, industrial action. As always with building these campaigns, participation and engagement will be key. We’re holding 10 regional and national events in November that will address the key issues our members face.

Our recent disputes show just how much of a difference a strong union presence in a workplace can make. The determined action taken by PCS members in the DVLA, DVSA, Royal Parks and ISS workers at BEIS has resulted in huge progress in some areas and won stunning victories in others.

If we can replicate the resolve shown by these members and apply it across the union and the whole of the public sector, I do not doubt that we can not only put a stop to the catastrophic decline in your living standards but drastically improve them in the years ahead.