By standing together we can thaw the government’s pay freeze

Across the public sector, UNISON is fighting the unwelcome return of austerity, says Tim Roberts in his latest blog

People on a demonstration

There’s plenty to welcome in our steady return to normality. As more of us are double-dosed, we can go back to embracing friends, watching live entertainment and generally living life.

Unfortunately, there’s one decade-long tradition the Tory government is bringing back that’s far less welcome: austerity.

And, as ever, it’s public-sector workers that are set to bear the full brunt of the cuts onslaught.

UNISON is battling this economically illiterate policy on many fronts.

We’re already in a position where the pitiful 3% rise offered to NHS workers seems almost generous. We’re now consulting police staff on the 0% they’ve been offered.

These workers – PCSOs, scene of crime officers, control room staff and other civilian roles – have been essential to our pandemic response. They’ve helped to explain and enforce Covid regulations and generally kept us safe. And their thanks for this is a pay freeze – or a pay cut to give it a more appropriate name, given that inflation has already lopped nearly 4% off the value of police pay in the last year.

Environment Agency staff have also been offered 0%.

These are the workers we rely on most to combat the devastating effects of global warming in the shores.

When storms struck and rivers burst their banks over the last year, Environment Agency staff were once again out on the frontlines through the lockdowns, keeping our communities safe.

But like their colleagues in the police, NHS, local government and elsewhere in the public sector, there’s no sign of any thanks from Boris Johnson.

Instead, he’s offering real-terms pay cuts and further demoralisation. Unless there’s a rethink this could seriously damage the agency’s ability to retain the skilled staff it needs. As a country, we’ll end up less prepared for the extreme weather to come.

The picture may be bleak, but UNISON is fighting back.

Our members in the NHS are now voting on their 3% offer. Local government staff will soon have their say on the derisive 1.75% they’ve been offered.

We know these rises aren’t good enough, but to get the pay we deserve we’ll all have to stand together and demand it.

So get active in your workplace. Talk to your colleagues. Encourage them to vote in our consultations on pay. Together, we can get the public sector the pay rise it needs.