Scotland’s workers can’t rely on the SNP to bring about a real change in pay policy, writes LYNN HENDERSON
ALMOST ten years since the crisis of economic greed, ordinary public-sector workers continue to pay the price of bailing out the bankers through wages slashed, cut, frozen and capped.
What a terrible way to treat the people who keep this country running. People that look after our courts, jobcentres, tax offices, schools, hospitals, driving centres, museums, galleries, passport offices, coastguard centres, fire and police stations and borders have seen their standards of living slip.
The services they deliver are run down. Only commitment to the public good drives these workers on.
Squeezed, frozen and capped below inflation, the pay of public-sector workers is now a public crisis.
When Theresa May talks about the “just-about-managing,” she probably didn’t even think that she was describing her own workforce.
The staff of government offices, processing centres and outposts across these islands have borne the brunt of austerity. They are the people whose pay the Prime Minister’s government sets.
From 2010 to 2016, average Civil Service pay fell by between £2,000 and £3,500 in real terms — a larger decline than the rest of the public sector and the wider economy.
With current pay capped at 1 per cent and inflation at 3.9 per cent and rising, members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are angry.
No longer willing to just-about-manage, thousands have sent their pay calculations to tell Philip Hammond just how much their pay has fallen.
Payday protests have been growing across government offices on the last day of every month. And today many more workers will mass outside their workplaces.
United in demanding an end to the pay cap, workers will also highlight the multiplied total lost to the local economy because of government pay policy.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds not spent in local shops, restaurants, hairdressers and culture and leisure facilities because people are struggling to just-about-manage.
It is startlingly obvious that holding down public-sector pay is counterproductive, unjust and economically unnecessary.
Yet still, both Chancellor and Cabinet Secretary Damian Green dismiss and contemptuously deny the serious impact of ever downward spiralling pay, cuts to pensions and cuts to redundancy rights.
Well, that’s the Tories for you. What then of the SNP Scottish government?
The Scottish TUC point out that Scottish government pay policy impacts on the pay of 90 per cent of Scottish public-sector workers.
Half a million workers are dependent on the SNP government taking action now for a fair pay deal.
Both Nicola Sturgeon and her Finance Minister Derek Mackay say they will end the pay cap in 2018. Yet, they will not fund above-inflation pay rises for their own workforce, who are suffering right now.
Saying you will end the cap, but not use your tax powers to redistribute wealth rings hollow. Without actual money in actual pockets of actual workers, the SNP government’s position is just empty rhetoric.
Where then is the alternative? Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are clear. They support a return to above-inflation pay rises for public-sector workers, funded through real investment in public services.
Closer to home, both candidates for Scottish Labour leader have said they want to end the pay cap. Only Richard Leonard, however offers any suggestion of real change to make this happen.
In his Workers’ Manifesto, Leonard, like Corbyn and McDonnell, challenges the economic orthodoxy, but not just by modest tinkering.
The real change offered by Leonard is a real commitment to public ownership and wealth redistribution. Anas Sarwar, like the SNP and previous Labour governments, offers timidity on taxation that is simply not enough.
The Tory Budget later in November is likely to be more of the same denial that workers deserve a pay rise. This will not do.
Workers however do not exercise their power through waiting on a kinder set of politicians to present them with handout policies.
Only workers can act to bring about the change in pay policy.
From October 9 until November 6, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is undergoing a national ballot of all Civil Service members on pay.
The PCS ballot is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of an ambitious pay campaign, to rebuild confidence across the public-sector workforce that by standing together they can win again.
Like Corbyn, McDonnell and Leonard, we believe that all public-sector workers deserve a pay rise now!
nLynn Henderson is PCS national officer for Scotland and Ireland and vice-president of the STUC.