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Issue #1809      February 7, 2018

Workers take economic brunt

BRITAIN: From the Carillion collapse to the NHS crisis and from to the gig economy to the public sector pay cap, the pattern is clear. All the risks of doing business are being shifted onto workers and taxpayers, while bad bosses rake in massive profits. British workers have been waiting a decade for a real pay rise in the longest pay squeeze since Napoleonic times.

Every day, union reps hear stories of falling living standards and in-work poverty. Working people are skipping meals to make ends meet or leaving the heating off so they can pay for food. Dedicated NHS nurses are forced to use food banks. Firefighters are taking on second jobs so they can feed their families.

This isn’t the kind of Britain we can accept. That’s why the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has called a national demonstration in London on May 12, to demand a new deal for working people. We invite all trade unionists, community activists and friends of the labour movement to join us.

The crisis we’re facing didn’t appear out of nowhere. It’s the product of political choices. The Carillion collapse is a textbook example of the failures of the privatisation and outsourcing agenda – billions of pounds pumped into a profit-driven conglomerate, with workers, taxpayers and public service users left to carry the can when it goes bust.

And now Capita has issued a profit warning as well. How many outsourcers have to be in trouble before government rethinks its failed outsourcing strategy and brings vital public services back into public hands?

That said, public services can only function with reasonable investment, both in the services themselves and the people that provide them. Over the last seven years, our NHS, police service, social care system, local governments and other public services have been stripped back so far that now they’re barely functioning.

We know that, in the case of the NHS, all that’s keeping it going is the hard work of dedicated staff, from surgeons to nurses to administrators to ambulance call operators. But those workers have had to endure an appalling eight years of real-terms pay cuts thanks to the government’s artificial pay restraint for public sector workers.

Unsurprisingly, this unholy trinity of service cuts, pay restraint and outsourcing has left our public services in a sorry state. Take the trains. British commuters are paying far more in fares than commuters elsewhere in Europe and getting overcrowded trains and disrupted services in return. When things go wrong, like with Virgin/Stagecoach, taxpayers are left to pick up the bill in the form of massive bailouts.

Throughout the world of work, bosses are pushing the risks of doing business onto their workers. Insecure work has become a staple of our economy, as sham self-employment in companies like Uber and Deliveroo denies workers their most basic rights, like sick pay and paid holiday. This is old-school exploitation, plain and simple, even if it’s hidden behind shiny apps and websites.

Everyone deserves a great job, with decent pay and fair treatment and a voice on what matters. That’s why we campaign and organise together and that’s why we march.

Right now, the government could take action to supporting working people such as banning zero-hours contracts, giving equal rights to agency workers and putting workers on boards.

But more importantly, it’s time for nothing less than a transformation of how working people are treated in the UK. We need ambitious and radical policies to make the world of work better for everyone.

So talk to your workmates, get your union branch to book coaches and join us in London on May 12 to demand a new deal for working people. See you there.

Morning Star

Next article – Film Review – Hostiles

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