7 Days Remaining

Tuesday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

A STUDY for the GMB union provides a valuable upto date assessment of how much unpaid overtime is put in by Britain’s public-sector employees.

Nearly two million staff work an extra eight hours a week on average and receive no payment in return, gifting the rest of us £11 billion every year.

Of course, there is nothing new in our public servants going above and beyond the call of duty.

Previous studies in 2008, 2012 and 2014 have shown the same pattern, with public-sector workers — the majority of them women — giving up their spare time at the expense of their own family, leisure, health and safety.

It cannot be right that people in stressful jobs such as social workers, midwives, teachers and other school staff are at the top of the “free labour” league.

According to the GMB, more than 300,000 of these and other workers are adding another 15 or more unpaid hours to their working week.

Nor is it accidental that the volume of unpaid work has soared in the public sector, where more than half a million jobs have been axed by Tory and Lib Dem coalition governments since 2010.

While workers have been expelled from the Civil Service offices, town halls, libraries, schools, colleges, day centres and police and fire stations, their work remains and has to be done.

Austerity has destroyed the jobs and transferred the burden onto those still in post.

To add insult to injury, most of those overworked and underpaid workers have had any annual pay increases capped at 1 per cent, cutting their living standards as real-life inflation — as distinct from officialdom’s fantasy figures — forges ahead.

These job and pay cuts have usually been accompanied by the sneering Tory chorus that denigrates the vital work done by our public servants, decrying the “bloated” public sector, its “unaffordable” and “gold-plated” pensions, those “callous” junior doctors who strike against excessive workloads and an NHS workforce second only in size to the Chinese People’s Army.

However, come a terrorist outrage or a catastrophic fire and our public-service workers are the salt of the earth, angels and heroes all, deserving our admiration, gratitude and almost everything else except a proper pay rise and a decent wage.

In what he wrongly imagined to be the privacy of the Cabinet room recently, Chancellor Philip Hammond resisted the case for lifting the cap, insisting that public-sector workers are already “overpaid.”

The well-paid millionaire Mr Hammond made his fortune in private healthcare and property development, has assets valued at more than £8 million and resolutely refuses to follow shadow chancellor John McDonnell by publishing his own tax returns.

In truth, the fact that public servants are twice as likely to do unpaid overtime than their fellow workers in the private sector underlines the extent to which their sense of “public duty” is exploited by managers and society generally.

This is not to argue that other workers should give up more of their free time for the benefit of company shareholders.

Rather, it underlines the urgent need to break through the disgraceful public-sector pay cap that has now been in place for almost seven years.

Trade unions owe it to their members to get together and plan a wages offensive that Chancellor Hammond cannot afford to dismiss.

The rest of us will owe such an offensive our unstinting solidarity.