Next week sees PCS’s annual delegate conference (ADC) in Brighton. This year’s conference comes in the midst of a snap general election, and one with the clearest choice for decades; from economic policy, to taxation, to public services, the Conservatives and Labour offer fundamentally different approaches.
On public services, cuts have been presented by the Conservatives as economically necessary, but while public services are being slashed, so are tax rates for big businesses and the richest few. Not only have these political choices made our economic recovery harder, they have undermined the provision of public services. But what is less obvious is the damage that worsening pay in the public sector is doing.
Since the pay cap has been in place, the value of average pay in the civil service has fallen by up to 9% against inflation; if the pay cap continues until 2020, as the Conservatives propose, average civil service pay will have fallen in value by over 20%.
The Tories claim that the pay cap is necessary to protect jobs, but we know this is simply not true. More than 110,000 civil service jobs have been cut since 2010, with further office closures and the risk of redundancies to come.
There is a crisis in the public sector and it is a crisis made in Downing Street. The Conservatives have made it clear that their 1% pay cap will be in place until at least 2020, and have announced further plans for cuts, office closures and privatisation in the civil service and across the public sector.
PCS is not affiliated to any political party but we have been clear that our message to our members is that another Tory government on 9 June would be the worst possible outcome.
There is a stark choice in this election. In contrast to the Tory offer, Labour’s manifesto sets out a clear commitment to many long-standing PCS industrial issues and demands, including an end to the public sector pay cap, and end to the privatisation of public services, and the renationalisation of public utilities.
Plans to reform tax and social security that we have long campaigned for – including the ‘Robin Hood tax’ and ending benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax – offer the opportunity to ensure that those with the greatest wealth contribute more and signal an important shift away from the policy of demonising claimants doggedly pursued by the Tories.
Personally, I will take the opportunity presented for the first time in decades to vote for a clear alternative to austerity and for essential and much-needed investment in our public services.