Tuesday 20 November 2007

Pay revolt

The pay issue just won't go away, with RPI inflation figures revised upwards to 4.2%. The government's attempts to baffle us all with talk of CPI inflation at 2.1% (fine as long as you don't need housing or fuel!) won't wash as most working people are experiencing falling real wages for the first time in 30 years.

Locally in Manchester, UNITE members at Stagecoach have voted (by 94%!) to strike for better pay, and strike dates have now been announced. Let's hope they can make a breakthrough.

It's been a great disappointment that the unions in the UK have allowed the opportunity of a breakthrough on public sector pay to slip through our fingers. At the moment, it is the government that is leading the way on pay "restraint", not by restraining their own salaries, but by restraining those of public sector employees. Not surprisingly, private sector employers are only too happy to follow this lead.

With the UK public sector having a far higher union density than the private sector, there was a real opportunity for united action (building on fights by posties, civil servants and even prison officers) defeating the pay cap and getting much-needed headlines about unions WINNING, which would help us build the union everywhere. Sadly, most of the union leaders seemed more interested in saving Gordon Brown embarassment than in standing up effectively for members, so the opportunity has receded - at least for now.

What a contrast to the headlines coming from France!

But with Brown saying he wants to restrict public sector pay rises to 2% for three years, the chances of the lid staying on seem slim to me.

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