Unions must be ready to force the government to give all public sector workers a decent pay rise if the November budget fails to offer properly-funded increases for all, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told our packed TUC Congress fringe.
Mark told the PCS fringe meeting in Brighton this lunchtime that if the government doesn’t change fiscal policy at the budget public sector unions will "respond pretty quickly” with strike ballots and protests.
“The government needs to feel unions' 'hot breath down their necks',” he said. “If we have nurses, teachers, council workers and civil servants demonstrating in ballots that they’re prepared to take action to end the pay cap it will put more pressure on Theresa May than anything else we can do.
“Ending the public sector pay cap for all workers is an investment in our public services and in our economy.”
He said any attempt from the government to scrap the pay cap must be properly funded and not take money from existing cash-strapped budgets.
Mark said: “We need to go from here to bring about the reality of delivering above inflation pay rises for all public sector workers.”
He said public sector unions will be pressing chancellor Phillip Hammond to scrap the cap when they meet him next month.
“If we don’t force the government to do something they will carry on trying to get away with it. But if we can win on this the boost it will give to our movement will be immense,” he added.
Standing with PCS
The need for solidarity across public sector unions was stressed by speakers from GMB, National Education Union and the Fire Brigades Union, that together represent hundreds of thousands of public sector unions.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache told the meeting – ‘Breaking the public sector pay cap’ - that his union was “proud to stand with PCS” in campaigning for above inflation, fully-funded pay rises for all.
He said: “The union movement must unite and work together to end the pay cap.”
Louise Regan from the National Education Union echoed this in saying: "All public sector workers deserve a pay rise - we have to stand together against this government.”
Pressure of the cap
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, described the pressure firefighters have been put under by the pay cap.
“Firefighters' pay has been cut in real terms by £3,000 over the past 7 years as a result of the government’s pay cap. At the same time we have seen our public services slashed to pieces.”
PCS president Janice Godrich, who chaired the meeting, further stressed the need for unions to coordinate their activities.
“If we work together we can achieve some real gains for workers who have paid the price for the austerity programmes,” she said.