Pay: the fight that matters more and more

This year’s pay award of 2.75% looks increasingly like a sick joke. The Unison and RCN negotiators who got us this one should hang their heads in shame.

The cost of basic foods has soared over the last year: up 31.6% at Sainsbury’s, 27.5% at Tesco, and 21.6% at Asda.  A magnificent 2.75% pay ‘increase’ won’t go far then. The press story is here.

There’s worse to come. Inflation has risen by half a per cent in a month. The Office for National Statistics has just released the latest inflation figures. The Bank of England’s official inflation benchmark is now at its highest level since CPI records began in January 1997. Based on historical data before this, inflation was last higher in May 1992.

The official rate for RPI – the prices we pay in the shops – is now a shocking 4.6%. That’s misleading, of course. The price of luxury goods is coming down. It’s pretty good out there if you’re shopping for a fur coat or a swimming pool. For most of us – with our income going on food, gas and electricity, housing and travel – the real rate of inflation is way higher than 4.6%. Every indication is that inflation’s going to keep on increasing.

A summary of what’s happening to prices is in today’s Independent. The article states:

A record rise in food prices was one of the main factors behind the inflation jump – highlighting the hikes faced by consumers in their weekly shopping bills.

June saw large increases in beef and pork sausage prices, as well as big hikes in the cost of rice, white bread, biscuits and frozen pizza. The cost of milk across a range of supermarkets has risen by around 10p for four pints and 4p for two pints, the ONS added.

Meanwhile, average petrol prices rose 5.3p a litre during the month to 117.6p thanks to surging oil prices, outstripping last year’s smaller increases and adding to motorists’ forecourt misery. Diesel also rose 7.3p last month compared with just 0.6p 12 months earlier.

Gas and electricity bills – which were unchanged in June but fell a year earlier – added to the inflation pressure.

So, what do we do? The starting point needs to be one of enormous anger. We didn’t make this economic crisis – why should we pay for it?

Local government workers in Unison and Unite are on strike over the next two days in opposition to a pay cut very similar to the one imposed on us. Health workers should of course visit picket lines, attend rallies, and send messages of support. Local government workers are right to be fighting back.

Unite’s Day of Action for health workers is on Friday this week. Regional protests are open to every health worker – and, for that matter, anyone else who wants to attend. Let’s make these a show of strength. Details of the main protests are on the Unite website, although smaller local events will also be taking place.

And beyond that?

Unite has a steering group of senior lay activists to take the pay fight forward. It’s incredibly important that this group respects the mandate from our members – to move to an industrial action ballot on pay.

And all health workers should begin to systematically expose just how rotten this three year deal actually is. The first year is a disgrace. Years two and three are set to be a disaster.

Waiting for Gordon Brown to be nice to us is set to be a very long wait. Last year we made the mistake of allowing the Government to cut our pay. That’s why they had the confidence to come back for three years of pay cuts this time round. There’s little question we’re going to need industrial action to overturn this nonsense – unless we threaten to pull the plug on Labour Party funding, of course. In every union, let’s build now for the action we’re going to need.

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2 Responses to Pay: the fight that matters more and more

  1. Dan says:

    Gill to put in context how crap it is we now have, 2008 -1.45 below April RPI of 4.2, 2007 was 2% BELOW an April RPI of 4.5% even if we ignore the phasing issue. 2006 was 0.1% BELOW April RPI of 2.6%.

    So 3 years in a row below RPI and as much as 2% below RPI in a single year.
    We have the data for Pathology staff which will mirror other non PRB staff going back to 1968.

    1988 we did well in the regrading exercise and the Treasury clawed it back with 2 years of 1.5% below RPI in 89 and 90.

    1980 Clegg awards we did well, with awards of 8 and 15% above RPI and the Treasury clawed it back with 6% and 3.5% below RPI in 81 and 82.

    Apart from those 2 occasions you have to go back to the mid 1970’s to get below RPI by more than 0.2% for more than a single year.

    If this is allowed to stand we will have below RPI for 5 years in a row and by significant amounts in most years.

  2. Green Rab C says:

    Thanks Gill for this and all your other postings on this. I’m a Unison Secretary in a West Yorks Health branch and will be on a local govt picket line at 7am tomorow and hope to speak at the rally at lunchtime to express our solidarity. I’ve already been warned (by well meaning LG Unison activists) to be careful about what I say re the health sell out for a wonderful 0.3% extra as I may be witchhunted. This says a great deal about the priorities of our full time officers. May I remind you that our NHS national negotiator is now a PPC for Nu-lab in a relatively safe seat. Call me a cynic but this could have tempered her efforts to negotiate? Keep fighting.

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