Opening the debate on public sector pay today (Monday) at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “For millions of public service workers struggling to survive, there is no more pressing issue than lifting the pay cap.
“They’ve suffered years of brutal austerity and vicious attacks on public services, overseen by a government that does not care what damage it causes to people’s lives.
“In the first six years of Conservative rule, public sector pay rose by just 4%, while the cost of living soared by 22%.
“So for every year that’s a pay cut, and every pay slip is a painful reminder for those struggling to get by and to afford the basics.
“The Conservatives call it prudence and restraint – I call it inhuman.
“The care worker who can’t afford the bus back from work, the nurse relying on a local foodbank, and the teaching assistant forced to apply for pay day loans – frightened that if her boiler finally packs up this winter, her family is a cold snap away from disaster.
“These are not tales of pity or tales of woe. This is about real lives – the lives of the millions of people who work for all of us and who ask for nothing more than dignity, respect and a fair share.
“Thanks to this Conservative government, a quarter of UNISON members – 300,000 public service employees – don’t know how they would pay for an unexpected expense. More than three-quarters of them are buying less food and one in ten are missing entire meals to feed their children.
“This is an outrage, and it’s getting worse. Inflation is three times the level of pay rises. People face spiralling debts that are impossible to repay.
“It’s immoral – which is why we’re delighted that the Labour Party will today announce plans for a cap on credit card debt. And why we welcome the commitment in Labour’s magnificent manifesto to scrapping the pay cap.
“But we can do so much better than that. Scrapping the cap is not enough. We must fight for real funding and real change.
“Real, above inflation pay rises for all public servants every year until pay is back at the level it was before the Conservatives strangled our public services.
“That must be the minimum that we demand because yes it’s about the police officer, but it’s also about the police community support officers. Yes it’s about nurses, but it’s also about care workers, social workers, ambulance staff and healthcare assistants. Yes it’s about teachers – but it’s also about teaching assistants, school meals staff and caretakers.
“All of them, together, have borne the brunt of Conservative austerity. All of them together have fought against cutbacks. All of them together know that better pay means better public services.
“So this fight starts now. We need the whole Labour Party, MPs, councillors, mayors, every constituency to stand with us – and if the time comes to take strike action I want to see everyone with us on picket lines.
“This is a struggle for the many not just the few. Now is the time to stand strong and stand united. It’s time to put public services first and to put pay up now.”