On 16 and 17 July council workers - including refuse collectors, school cleaners and cooks, teaching assistants, librarians, etc., will walk out on a 2-day strike over pay. They have been offered a pay cut this coming year. That is what their 2.45% "offer" means. Already British Museum and Gallery workers have been on strike after being "offered" 1.6% and other civil service workers may well be following their example soon. "Pay restraint" means that 40% of the staff running benefit offices are meant to accept 0% and others 1.9%!
These workers who keep the public services going are already - just about - scraping by on wages below £6 or £7 per hour, with some on part-time contracts. And government bosses want them to take a pay cut while, on top of that insult, they give themselves huge bonuses? Top civil servants enforcing Darling's "wage restraint" policy at the Treasury shared £3.1m between them! The biggest bonuses (£128m-worth) went to the bosses in charge of tax credits for the poor, while their clerical workers face a pay cut of at least 4% this year.
As if that were not obscene enough, last week there was the spectacle of MPs voting to keep the "John Lewis List" which pays for large items of expenditure like fridges and washing machines in their "second" homes, also subsidised by taxpayers! But they then showed admirable "restraint" in voting to keep their own pay rise below inflation - at 2.25%! Of course, when you earn £61,820, this 2.25% represents an increase of £1,391. (And that is not counting all their other paid expenses!) Whereas 1.9% of £13,627 (the lower end of civil service pay in London) works out at just £258 over the year. And just how will that help pay the 40% increase in energy, the 20% increase in petrol, the 14% increase in food...?
Ultimately though, MP's fat salaries are nothing compared to incomes of the nearly half a million really rich who own Britain's economy. Between them they have around £1,000 billion, but comprise only 0.008% of the population! These people are the ones who should be made to pay in order to maintain the standard of living of the working class. After all, their wealth comes from the working class in the first place. What is more, it is their financial speculation which is the cause of the price spiral.
So yes, council workers and civil service workers are right to refuse a pay cut. They are right to strike. We all know that this is the only language that bosses understand. Didn't the fuel tanker drivers just prove it, yet again? Their 4-day strike got them a 14% increase over 2 years, which may be only part of what they needed, but it was a step in the right direction! This is the step which needs to be taken by all workers, and the more of us who take it together, the more effective it will be!
When the scaffolding of the profit system falls apart, the system needs changing!
In the last two weeks, over 3,000 redundancies have been announced by just 4 of the country's largest builders - Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon and Kier Residential.
Not that these companies have suddenly become "poor". Over the years they have accumulated huge assets in land for speculative purposes, thereby pushing house prices up. They have cashed in a really neat amount of cash as a result and, on top of it all, they still retain a large part of their land stocks. But never mind! The minute their large profits seem under threat, it is not their profit margins that they cut, nor their large assets, but workers' jobs!
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These may well be the first substantial job cuts to be announced by the big builders, but since the beginning of the year, tens of thousands of jobs have already been wiped out in smaller businesses, in building and connected industries. However, most of these cuts went unreported because they took place in companies which, unlike the 4 big players above, are not listed on the stock market.
Next door to us, in Ireland, 20% of construction jobs have already disappeared and 30% are expected to have disappeared by the end of this year. Here, in Britain, this is not the kind of figure that the government is willing to disclose. But some business-commissioned surveys are already estimating that up to 440,000 jobs may disappear by the end of next year, even if there is no economic recession!
This is not acceptable. The profit system has allowed the capitalists to gamble at the expense of the working class for too long. A system that cannot cater for the needs of the population as a whole has no right to exist. It must be replaced!