THE TORIES are determined to put an end to trade union-negotiated across the board pay increases for all public sector workers and replace national wage negotiations with performance-related pay.
In July this year, the Tories formally ended the 1% pay cap for public sector workers in the face of a rising tide of strike action that posed a threat, not just to the pay cap but to the survival of May’s minority government.
May boasted at the Tory Party conference that this was the ‘end of austerity’ but it was clear that any pay increase would be paid for by departmental ‘savings’. In other words no new money, just continuing cuts to services in order to pay for the pittance pay increases on offer, pay increases that in no way compensated workers for the huge amounts of lost wages accrued during the previous ten years of wage freezes and pay caps.
Now it transpires that service cuts to pay for any meagre pay increases are not enough for the Tories. Tory chancellor Philip Hammond is now demanding greater ‘flexibility’ over public sector pay and a more ‘targeted’ approach. The wages and conditions of public sector workers and destroying their trade unions is the ‘target’ that the Tories have their sights set on.
Last week, Treasury minister Liz Truss told the cabinet that any future public sector pay rises must be based on productivity and performance and not an across the board increase negotiated by the unions. In other words, no more wage negotiations by trade unions, instead, individual workers being called in by their managers to beg for a pay increase by proving how ‘productive’ they are, how well they have performed.
Every single worker will be forced to negotiate their own pay increases with managers who can decide that if imposed ‘targets’ for performance are not met then no pay rise! Truss also insisted that outside London and the South East public sector pay is more ‘competitive’ with those in the private sector and therefore outside these two areas any pay rise should be much lower to bring public sector workers down to the level of the most poorly paid.
Truss hailed the recent pay settlement for NHS workers, a treacherous deal that was sold to the membership by every single one of the NHS unions, with the exception of the GMB, which contained a clause allowing for performance-related pay increases for incremental rises. By treacherously accepting this deal and pushing it through their members, unions like Unite and Unison signalled to the Tories their willingness to destroy one of the very foundations of the trade union movement – the right for workers to national collective wage bargaining.
If trade unions don’t negotiate pay for all their members then what role do they really have? The Tory intention couldn’t be clearer, to keep pay rises to poverty levels and reduce public sector workers to the status of powerless individuals confronting management all on their own.
At the same time, regional pay is intended by Truss and Hammond to help split trade union members geographically over pay and break the solidarity that is the basis of trade unionism. Accepting and welcoming the NHS pay deal by the health union leaders gave the green light to the Tories to attack the existence of trade union.
The public sector unions, like the PCS, must immediately reject any attempt to impose performance-related or regional pay bargaining. Far from austerity ending, the Tories are determined to carry it through permanently and this means destroying the trade unions as independent fighting organisations of the working class.
All those trade union leaders who have collaborated with the Tories in this must be thrown out, as the nurses have done with the leadership of their own union, the RCN.
A new leadership must be built in the trade union movement, a leadership prepared to lead the fight to bring down this Tory government and for the working class to take the power and go forward to a workers government and socialism. Come to the News Line Anniversary Rally on November 4th and join the struggle to build this leadership.