Sunak’s peanuts for public sector workers
Rishi Sunak’s public sector pay rise, for 900,000 public sector workers supposedly to “recognise their vital contribution”, excludes most key workers.
Social carers are almost all private sector employees, so they will get nothing! And the deal includes fewer than 200,000 of the NHS’s 1.5m workers. The others who got a pay rise are teachers, doctors (excluding 39,000 junior doctors), police, prison guards, army personnel, and senior civil servants and judges. In other words, only a minority of the 5.5m who work in the public sector.
In fact 1.3m NHS workers - nurses, paramedics, porters, and others - are in the middle of a 3 year pay deal. They got a 3% rise in 2018 (when inflation was 2.5%), but 1.75% rise last year and the same this year, less than the 1.8% RPI inflation for June. According to the Royal College of Nursing, pay is still 14% below 2010 in real terms!
The largest “increase” is 3.1% for teachers. But all in all, public sector pay is still below the level of 10 years ago, due to previous pay freezes and cuts. So all these workers have seen a real fall in their standard of living - and this fall continues!
Worse, since these supposed “pay rises” are meant to be paid from existing budgets, no new money is provided by the government! Sunak said the rises “shouldn’t affect provision of public services” - and no they shouldn’t! But they will, since budgets, especially in schools and prisons, are already over-stretched.
This new pay deal is only for 1 year and Sunak gave the game away about future austerity, in his letter to government departments, “we must exercise restraint in future public sector pay awards”. As if this deal was an “unrestrained”, “generous” amount to offer less than 1m workers!
Nevertheless, economists fret that Sunak is borrowing too much money. The government’s cash deficit was £174bn between April and June, which is more than double the previous record of £76.8bn in the last 3 months of 2009. Borrowing for this year is expected to reach more than £350bn, which, they say is the highest in 300 years. But is it? When the banks were bailed out in 2008/9, government borrowing reached £152bn, but an extra £500bn in loans and loan guarantees was made available.
In other words, when needed - and depending on for whom - the government has no problem about “printing money” - and never mind the deficit.
But the “deficit” today which faces workers is life-threatening. Not just because of the second wave of Covid-19, almost guaranteed by Johnson’s mishandling of the virus crisis, but because of the 650,000 jobs already lost, poverty benefits, poverty wages and the tsunami of unemployment to come.
There is no life raft to expect from Sunak. The working class will have to look to itself and its own resources - and fight for its collective life!