Workers vow to strike unless government lifts controversial pay cap
THE government is facing the growing threat of co-ordinated strikes by public sector workers unless it lifts its controversial cap on pay.
Unions across the UK are pressing for a 5% increase for millions of nurses, teachers, council staff, civil servants and other workers who have been subjected to a pay freeze or 1% cap for seven years.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, made a passionate plea for an end to pay restraint during a debate at the TUC Congress in Brighton.
He had a heart transplant last year and praised the many NHS staff who looked after him.
The PCS is balloting all its members on industrial action, a move being followed by some members of the Prison Officers Association in special hospitals and control rooms.
Mr Serwotka said PCS members had suffered a 10% pay cut because of the cap, rising to 20% by 2020.
“There is a crisis in public sector pay and now is the time for action,” he said.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have co-ordinated ballots in the run-up to the Budget.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “We’ve seen years of brutal austerity and vicious attacks on public services, overseen by an uncaring government whose pay policies are causing real hardship.
“In the first six years of Conservative rule, public sector pay rose by just 4.4%, yet the cost of living soared by 22%, and to rub salt into those wounds, the pay of top bosses rose by a third in one year alone.
“Whilst the rich feather their nests, public service workers struggle to afford the basics. The government call it prudence and restraint — I call it inhuman.
“We must commit to marching, demonstrating and lobbying — not just in Westminster, but also in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
“We need public events in every major city and town to change the face of politics and hold Conservative MPS to account in their own back yards, and joint ballots for industrial action if all else fails.”
Gail Cartmail of Unite said the cap on public sector pay was “contaminating” many private firms who have followed suit.