On Monday I spoke at the May Day rally in Trafalgar Square, paying tribute to our Equality and Human Rights Commission members who are involved in a long-running dispute over staff and budget cuts of 75% and compulsory redundancies.
We’ve been under a Tory-led government since 2010, and the experience of our EHRC members and many other PCS members across the country shows just how bad life is if you work in the public sector under the Tories.
Our members keep this country going, from collecting tax to paying benefits and keeping us safe. Yet many of our civil and public sector workers are treated so shamefully by the government they’re being forced to campaign for things that everyone should be able to take for granted; security and stability at work, decent pay and to be able to feed their families and to make ends meet.
Last time we had a general election in this country, Labour was led by Ed Miliband, and Ed Balls as shadow chancellor. We were asked to vote Labour, but we were told that meant keeping the public sector pay freeze, accepting government limits on public expenditure, and keeping austerity in Britain.
How refreshing is it then, that two years on, we go into this election with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell saying they will lift the public sector pay cap, end zero hour contracts, repeal the Tories’ anti-union legislation, properly fund the NHS and ensure there is dignity at work. These commitments to many of our long-standing industrial demands have never been on offer from the Labour party before.
Corbyn and McDonnell’s pledges to public sector workers are in stark contrast to what the Tories have to offer. Our members will be 20% worse off in real terms as a direct result of the current government’s pay cap and the failure of pay to keep up with rising inflation. If the Tories win the election the pay cap will be in place until at least 2020, and cuts and privatisation in the public sector will continue. Under a Tory government, life will get harder for our members and for all public sector workers.
It’s absolutely clear that if you care about public services, if you care about fighting inequality, fighting for our NHS and education, then we must collectively do everything we can to kick out the Tories on 8 June.
We in the trade union movement have a responsibility to vote out Theresa May and to say, that whatever happens next, the unions have got to start fighting together against cuts, privatisation and pay restraint. We will fight like never before together for justice for working people and for public sector workers and our future can be bright if we fight together and campaign together.