Many public sector staff will be taking industrial action on July 10th in protest at below-inflation pay rises and cuts to pensions.
With house prices up by nearly 10% a year, energy bills up by almost 40% in three years, and food prices rocketing, cutting pay for hundreds of thousands of people who we all rely on to deliver council, blue light, NHS, school and other services, harms our economy and drives more and more into working poverty.
Meanwhile, pay and bonuses for those in the top 20% continue to rise sharply. And it isn’t just the traditionally low paid who are falling behind; many previously well-paid professions are seeing incomes drop.
The Government says pay increases can’t be afforded, despite their insistence that the UK economy is recovering, yet in reality they are skimming the public sector pay budget to fund infrastructure spending in areas important to the Tory vote next May.
Put simply, if the majority do not have disposable income then they can’t spend it. Our economy cannot survive with a small minority at the top making vast profits and drawing huge salaries that are then taken out of the UK economy; it is unsustainable.
Labour in Brighton and Hove have pledged to set up a one-year Fairness Commission to look at strengthening our local economy, securing better pay and tackling the growing poverty that we are seeing as a result of underemployment, low wages and benefit cuts.
No-one wants strikes and disruption to people’s daily lives, which are hard enough, but there is a limit to what reasonable people can take from a Government that seems hell-bent on increasing inequality in our country to the benefit of a very few at the top.
I’d hope that the Government would see sense and provide councils and other public sector employers with adequate funding so that school staff, care home workers, street cleaners, midwives and firefighters can have a pay rise at least in line with inflation.
Below-inflation rises and pay freezes will only add to our low-wage economy where poverty pay is driving thousands into debt and hardship. If the Government refuse to budge then Labour in the city will back the one-day strike on July 10th.