Pandemic heroes stabbed in the back

A public-sector pay freeze would send us straight back to the old normal we warned about, says Tim Roberts in his latest blog

Public-sector workers may be battling through a lethal second wave of Covid-19 but that doesn’t mean they’ve got any support from the government.

Today’s first look at next week’s comprehensive spending review lays bare a return to the failed austerity policies that have worn us down for the last decade.

It’s a stab in the back for those heroes we clapped through the first wave.

We paid the price for the 2008 financial crash. Front-line public sector workers have already borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Many lost their lives, but many more will forever be scarred by their experiences in intensive care units, many more have worked themselves to exhaustion keeping the country going through this crisis.

Social workers, teaching assistants, refuse workers, PCSOs, 999 control room staff, homelessness officers, street cleaners, university and college administrators, and those in hundreds of other roles in public services deserve much better. The superficial gratitude of government ministers for their hard work won’t pay their bills.

But while it’s a cruel insult to our pandemic heroes, Tory plans for a pay freeze will hardly come a as a surprise.

This is exactly the return to ‘normal’ we warned about. The economically illiterate policies of pay restraint and public sector spending cuts that lie at the very heart of government thinking, even in good times.

While we hear grave words about workers in the public and private sectors tightening their belts, there’ll be no let up in public cash being handed over to Tory Party donors and other bungling private contractors to eke a profit out of our public services.

Austerity and pay freezes are political decisions. Nearly 40,000 people signed UNISON’s open letter to the Prime Minister ahead of the comprehensive spending review. We’ll need many hundreds of thousands more to join the battle to come.

We’ll do all we can to persuade the Chancellor to drop his cruel plans before they’re made official next week.

But if he refuses to listen to reason, every UNISON member will need to do their part in defence of public services.