18 Days Remaining

Monday 11th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Unions vow to take on Tory misers and win

PUBLIC-SECTOR workers will turn the screws on MPs in marginal Tory seats this week as Labour forces a parliamentary vote on ending the 1 per cent pay cap.

As the TUC Congress opened yesterday, public-sector union Unison published a list of 27 marginals where its membership significantly outnumbers the Conservative incumbent’s majority.

The campaign was launched as heroic NHS workers who treated victims of the London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester terrorist attacks said they were struggling to make ends meet.

Thousands of Unison members in the 27 constituencies will lobby their MPs in the coming days, protesting at the fact that public-sector pay has either been frozen or limited to 1 per cent rises since 2010.

General secretary Dave Prentis vowed: “We will fight and use every means at our disposal to get decent pay rises for all public-sector workers.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has a wafer-thin majority of just 346 in her Hastings and Rye constituency, where 1,948 Unison members live.

Other MPs on the list include anti-Brexit firebrand Anna Soubry and former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb.

Mr Prentis vowed that MPs in such constituencies “will experience pressure like never before.”

The union will not seek a national ballot over the pay cap, he said, arguing that anti-strike laws meant new tactics had to be adopted. It will instead ballot in individual localities, seeking to produce a “domino effect.”

The Unison leader vowed to “fight, fight and fight again” for “fair pay and fair standards” for public-sector workers. “We will defend them, if all else fails, with industrial action,” he added.

Manchester hospital theatre sister Jo O’Brien, who volunteered to come into work following the Ariana Grande concert bombing in May, said the pay cap “makes you feel unvalued.”

She said she was “working overtime shifts just to pay the bills.”

Monmouthshire care worker Sue Stockham told the Star she had been forced to take two jobs. She argued that percentage pay rises were the wrong approach, pointing out that a 1 per cent rise would be worth just 8p an hour to her.

And London-based paramedic Rob Sydney, who attended the scenes of the London Bridge and Westminster attacks, said rising national insurance and pension contributions had placed an additional burden on workers.

“I take home £50 an hour less than I did five years ago,” he said.

Civil Service union PCS, which represents low-paid workers in Whitehall departments, is holding a consultative ballot for a strike in protest at the cap.

In a speech to the Congress today, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka will say: “Yes, nurses need a pay rise, but so do the porters and cleaners that keep our hospitals running. So do jobcentre workers, our border staff and the HMRC workers who collect the tax that pays for the public services we all rely on.

“A united public-sector-wide campaign is the best way to pressurise the government to end the pay cap for all, and we are absolutely clear that the time for action is now.”

Mr Prentis also stressed that the cap must be lifted for all public-sector workers, while TUC leader Frances O’Grady said unsung heroes in “Cinderella services” must not miss out.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth pledged that Labour would bring a vote on ending the cap for NHS workers to the Commons on Wednesday.

He urged Tory MPs who had previously offered warm words about ending the cap to rebel.

“We can put an end to the pay cap on Wednesday for the NHS staff if they vote with us,” Mr Ashworth said.