I know as a trade union leader that if I go into a negotiation with the employer my chances of success are fatally undermined if people supposedly on my team are speaking against me. Yet this is what is happening in the Labour party at the moment.
At a time when our public services are under sustained attack from the government, with the NHS in crisis and new cuts to our education system just announced, it is more important than ever that we all pull in the same direction and focus on taking the fight to Tories.
Millions of people are facing new pressures on the cost of living. Inflation has risen again in the last few months, and is now the highest it’s been for three-and-a-half years. We’ve seen food prices increase for the first time in almost three years, and uncertainties around Brexit mean inflation looks set to rise further at a time when real wages are shrinking.
Pay is simply not keeping up. As PCS has revealed, since the 1% public sector pay cap has been in place, the value of average pay in the civil service has fallen sharply against inflation. We know that the number of workers in the UK in precarious positions where they could lose their jobs at short or no notice has grown by almost 2 million in the past decade.
But too often, instead of exposing the realities of Tory government and promoting an alternative, the story, particularly in recent days, is people undermining the Labour leadership from within. This shows a total lack of respect for the millions of people who are facing unprecedented attacks on their pay, jobs, public services and standard of living.
Those seeking to undermine the elected leadership of Labour, and particularly those people who are MPs, should know better, and must bear the responsibility for allowing the Tories to get away with poverty pay, education cuts, an NHS funding crisis, and soaring inflation, all of which affect PCS members.
Labour must unite behind the policies of the currently elected leader and really focus on giving Theresa May and the Tories a hard time, standing up for the millions of people — including many PCS members — who are struggling as a result of her policies. That’s why PCS supports the Labour leadership’s anti-austerity policies.
And there is obviously a role for trade unions to challenge the Tories industrially. We are fighting back against cuts and for decent jobs, pay, pensions and public services. I am proud we have launched a new campaign against the public sector pay cap, and day of action on 31 March. But to oppose the Tories more robustly, the trade union movement must work together, starting with taking joint action over public sector pay.
This is the only way we will get an alternative to austerity, cuts and the low pay and rising costs of living that we have been campaigning so hard for on behalf of our members.