10 July Strikes – A Line In The Sand?

s4The big strike day of 10 July saw public sector workers protest about the continuing squeeze on their incomes, conditions and pensions. At the rally in Lowestoft strikers told of young teachers burnt out and quitting the profession within five years, of fire fighters told to work until the age of 60 when even training exercises become near impossible. After three years of frozen pay, council workers are told to accept a 1% rise or get nothing.
It also brought to light the scale and the range of attacks on a society that is fast being dismantled. Public services such as Suffolk’s care homes, once thought to be the responsibility of us all, have been sold to the City. CareUK, which now owns them, is cutting carers’ pay. Local mental health services have had their budgets cut by £44m. Councils shed staff and call it efficiency. Students start their working lives with tens of thousands pounds of debts. Attacks on benefits, described elsewhere, mean that the idiotic bedroom tax has taken hundreds of thousands into debt. Private sector workers are treated as badly.
In Lowestoft, zero hours contracts are rife, in some of the oldest firms and many of the newest. Can you get a mortgage, start a family, plan for childcare or even raise your voice if you are on a zero hours contract? All necessary, we are told, because the money isn’t there.s3
Yet the country is 35 times richer than it was in the 1970s when proper jobs, pensions and services were affordable. After the Second World War the country managed to create the NHS and, among other things, nationalise the railways. Now, apparently, “the money isn’t there”.
The question is, where has all the money gone? The statistics are clear. The already wealthy are scooping up more and more of the country’s wealth. In 2013 average FTSE 100 CEO’s pay, at £4.4m pa, was 120 times the average earnings of their employees, up from 47 times as recently as 1998. The division between rich and the rest has been widening for some forty years and is now at the level that it was before the First World War.
Significant on that day was the absence of library staff and other outsourced council workers. On legal advice, union leaders decided not to ballot these workers. They are effectively cast adrift. At the same time David Cameron announced that the Tories would further restrict the right of public sector workers to strike. All the major political parties are united in planning further cuts up to and beyond the next election. For us, things are going to get worse.


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