Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap

With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

July 4, 2017
4 min read

During the election Theresa May told public sector workers that there was no possibility of an end to the pay cap. But the chaos and weakness of the current minority Tory government means that some ministers are now suggesting it should end, for some public sector workers.

One minute we have the suggestion of a review into the pay cap policy, the next we have the prime minister claiming that nothing has changed, and minutes after that, ministers defying Theresa May and calling for an end to the cap.

The sudden concern from Tory MPs over the public sector pay cap is the very definition of hypocrisy. Last week we saw how the same Tory MPs cheered when they blocked a Labour amendment that would have seen a long-overdue pay rise for all public sector workers.

Public sector workers across all public services, from jobcentre workers, tax collectors and police support staff, to nurses, firefighters and civilian defence staff, have suffered over seven years of pay restraint. These workers keep our country running, they are the people that make sure our vital public services are there for all those who need them and they have all suffered from the government’s pay policy.

If the pay cap continues until 2020 as the government originally planned, average pay for our members will have fallen in value by over 20 per cent in ten years. We opposed the policy from the beginning and I am proud of our continued campaign against it.

Lift the cap for all

In recent days, some ministers have suggested the pay cap could be lifted but that we must wait for pay review bodies’ recommendations. But any review of public sector pay must include all public sector workers and lead to the cap being lifted for all of them.

Pay review bodies cover less than half (45 per cent) of all public sector workers, excluding the vast majority of the civil service and related areas. They must work within a framework set by the Treasury and the government is not bound by any of the review bodies’ recommendations.

For the 400,000 staff in key public service jobs not covered by pay review bodies, pay is set each year by the Treasury through the ‘pay remit’ and overseen by the Cabinet Office. This includes the vast majority of our members, such as those who collect and administer the tax that funds all the public services we all rely on, jobcentre workers, staff who provide support of, at our borders and in immigration and asylum, and many others. All of these workers have suffered real terms pay cuts, and all deserve a decent pay rise.

The government cannot be allowed to pick and choose which public sector workers it thinks it can ignore when it comes to pay and ministers insisting we wait for recommendations from pay review bodies are just ducking responsibility.

Yes nurses need a pay rise, and so do the porters and cleaners that keep our hospitals running. Our teaching assistants and school dinner staff are as deserving of a pay rise as the teachers they work alongside.

Importantly, without additional investment from the Treasury, whether covered by a pay review body or not, public sector workers will not get a fair and proper pay rise.

It is clear that the government no longer has a mandate to continue with the pay cap, and the election result has forced the issue up the political agenda. But ministers must provide the investment to match their recent rhetoric, and we must not let up in our fight to ensure that every public sector worker – and not just a select few – get the pay rise they are urgently owed. That means a united campaign from all public sector unions, and the coordination from the TUC that we have been calling for.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths


10