By Louise Lewis (NEC, personal capacity), James Kerr (NEC elect, personal capacity) and SA members in NEU
We have seen a big climbdown from Rishi Sunak today, as he has accepted the “independent” public sector pay review bodies advice, offering between 6-7% pay to a number of groups of public sector workers. This is a direct result of the strike action being taken throughout the public sector, with junior doctors today starting the longest ever strike action in the NHS.
However, this offer does not match any of the demands from the trade unions when members voted to take strike action. Nor do any of the pay offers come close to matching inflation, so it is still a pay cut amidst the cost of living crisis.
Funding for this pay offer is still unclear, with Sunak initially announcing that charges for migrants applying for visas and the immigration health surcharge (which is already extortionate and reaches £624 per year) will be massively increased, supposedly to raise over £1bn – a deeply cruel and inhumane policy continuing to play into the Tories ‘culture war’ rhetoric. The NEU and indeed all trade unions have a duty to oppose this disgusting divide and rule ploy from the Tories. The leadership of the NEU is always desperate to portray itself as “anti-racist” – but when push comes to shove, it is disappointing that this acceptance is portraying an acceptance of racism.
£1 billion is in any case not nearly enough to fully fund the pay offer – meaning that cuts in the public services will potentially be demanded in exchange for this – with Rishi Sunak saying the public sector will need to “reprioritise”. And Sunak has cynically exaggerated these figures to create the impression that public sector pay rises will be paid for by migrant workers!
Strikes are currently planned for Consultants and Radiographers in the NHS next week, but in light of this offer, it remains unclear whether these strikes will now go ahead. NASUWT, the second largest teachers’ union which has yet to participate in the strikes, yesterday beat the anti democratic trade union legislation to achieve a mandate to strike. On top of this, we understand that the NEU has already cleared those same thresholds in their mandatory reballot. Fear of the biggest teachers’ strike for many decades – in reality a total education shutdown – has clearly been a major factor in Sunak reversing his position on the Pay Review Body recommendations. These large strike mandates prove there is massive anger at over a decade of pay cuts.This offer will not end this, let alone offer pay restoration. Nor will it address the plight of school support staff in the NEU whose pay demands are not included in the offer.
The joint statement from the leaderships of the unions involved in the industrial dispute makes clear that they intend to recommend this appalling offer to members, with even General Secretary-elect Daniel Kebede recommending it is accepted. Union bureaucrats selling out when they’re in office is par for the course – doing so before they’ve even started the position is a new record.
A new Educators say NO group, similar to the NHS Workers Say NO campaign group that was instrumental in the RCN reject vote, has been established.
Trade unions MUST now consult their members on these offers, the decision must be taken by the workers that are feeling the brunt of the cost of living crisis. Socialist Alternative calls for a REJECT vote on these offers, and to fight for coordinated strike action, across unions and sectors, as agreed at Unite’s Policy Conference yesterday. This climbdown shows that the Tories intransigence can be beaten by the working class, and the Tories have shown their weakness today. Further escalation and coordination of the strikes can not only win an inflation beating pay rise, but also bring the Tories down.
Socialist Alternative says:
- Build rank-and-file campaigns to reject the pay offer – 6-7% is still a pay cut!
- Build for further action that is coordinated across trade unions and sectors – this climbdown by the Tories has shown that the working class can win when they fight!
- Pay rises must be fully funded – not by increasing charges on migrants or accessing healthcare, nor through cuts to the public sector – but through taxing the multi-billion pound companies that hoard wealth!
- Trade unions should not be promoting deals that see an increase in attacks on migrants! Union members and Educators say No should actively campaign for an end to all anti-migrant attacks.
- We need joint shop stewards’/union reps’ committees in every multi-union workplace or employer that can build militant unions that can harness the power of the working class.
- Socialist Alternative stands for a fighting leadership across the workplaces and the unions, along with a socialist programme based on public ownership, workers’ control and a living income for all.
Join the Educators say no online meeting!
Monday July 17th 2023 at 07:00 PM
Zoom link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/72716106376?fbclid=IwAR38zLiprGNBHmIdIyKVaBvvCFIvgu_wi6wdCLn0p7OtjwRTHISWzfkRU6E#success
Meeting ID: 727 1610 6376
Come to discuss why we need to reject the 6.5% pay offer and fight for more and how we need to organise to convince others to also vote REJECT.