Half a million children of public servants condemned to poverty by wage and benefit caps

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550,000 CHILDREN (1 in 7) with a parent working in the public sector will be forced to live in poverty by the end of this financial year according to research carried out by the TUC. This analysis, published yesterday, showed that since 2010 an extra 150,000 children of public sector employees have been pushed below the breadline as a result of the Tory government’s pay cap and cuts to in-work benefits, an increase of 40%.

Families where both parents worked in the public sector suffered the biggest losses with their average household income cut by a massive £83 a week in real terms by April this year. In homes where one parent worked in the public and one in the private sector, the average cut in money is £53 a week.

When the Tories came to power in 2010, they imposed a 1% pay cap on all public sector workers with the result that in the past eight years real wages for workers in health and education have fallen by 13.3% and for those employed in public administration the cut has been 14.3%. The result of this has been to drive over half a million children into poverty.

This is the reality of life under Tory austerity for nurses, teachers, firefighters, social workers and everyone working in the public sector. What was the response of the TUC leaders to their own damning analysis?

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

‘The government’s pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts are causing needless hardship. Public servants shouldn’t have to worry about feeding or clothing their kids. But many are struggling to afford even these basics.’ She concluded with this appeal: ‘Ministers must give public sector workers the pay rise they have earned. If they don’t, more families will fall into poverty.’

 

No call for the unions to act to end this barbaric attack that is destroying the lives of children. Instead, the TUC restricts itself to ‘campaigns’ like the one currently on their website asking people to ‘show some love to our hard-working public servants’ by sending in photos and comments. All the love in the world won’t put food on the table or pay the rent. What is required is action, a fight against this Tory government and its savage austerity cuts that have only one aim, to pay for the banking crisis and the bankruptcy of British capitalism.

At last year’s TUC annual conference, the leaders of the public service unions and the TUC lined up to pledge a ‘strike wave’ to fight for a 5% pay rise, and voted unanimously for co-ordinated action to smash the pay cap, with the Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey promising he would break the Tory anti-union laws to obtain a real wage increase. Five months after this conference nothing has been done by these leaders.

Unions representing local government workers, (Unison, Unite and GMB) are currently consulting over a 2% wage deal spread over two years, well below the inflation rate and miles away from the 5% they promised to fight for. The PCS union, representing civil servants, instead of immediately balloting for strike action, called a consultative ballot which was passed overwhelmingly but with no strike action resulting from it.

The refusal of the TUC and union leaders to match in action all the fighting words and call the co-ordinated strikes they promised five months ago is a treacherous betrayal of their members and their families. Victory can only be achieved by a general strike to bring down the Tories, something the TUC leaders are refusing to do – they would rather see half a million kids go hungry.

The only way forward for public sector workers is to demand their unions call an emergency TUC conference to clear out this leadership and elect a new leadership that will immediately organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and advance to a workers government. A workers government will expropriate the bosses and bankers and ensure decent wages that mean no child in the country will ever go hungry again.