I would like to express support to PCS members who went out on strike last week. I know how much soul-searching is involved when groups of workers conclude that the only way to protest against the downward pressure on their terms and conditions which has left them with a real terms pay cut
of more than ten per cent, is to withdraw their labour.
It can be a very lonely place standing up for what you believe to be right and for that reason alone we should applaud those who have the strength of character to do so.
By contrast Horsham MP Francis Maude’s rather predictable comments reported in last week’s County Times describing the strike as ‘futile, counterproductive and irresponsible’ surely far better describes his Government’s faltering attempts to restore economic growth.
Once again he illustrates how out of touch he is with the working lives of everyday people.
PCS members quite rightly explain that they are on strike to protect our public services at a time when once again Tories are busy dismantling the welfare state and in its place creating a ‘user pays philosophy’, a system that always favours the rich and powerful in our society. The fact that trade unions believe in our welfare state drives the desire of successive Tory Governments to denigrate them and their members.
Maude’s comments last week are just another example of the trade union bashing so beloved by the Tories.
As a member of Unite I am involved in a campaign to save the Agricultural Wages Board, a body that sets minimum rates of pay and conditions for those employed within the rural economy.
Francis Maude will vote in April along with all members of the Coalition Government to abolish it, despite the Government’s own report recognising that abolition will increase rural poverty.
This is just one small example of what is happening right across the UK where income is being taken out of the pockets of everyday people and is being concentrated at the top, by those who already have more than enough.
In creating a low paid economy, the Government places an additional burden on the tax payer to raise those in low paid work who are increasingly reliant on benefits , out of poverty. Surely a far better model is to move towards a society in which all employment pays without so many reliant on benefits to make ends meet?
Until Governments understand the need to create a fairer society one in which we are truly, ‘all in it together’ we will need trade unions to continually press the claims of their members as they seek to both improve their pay and conditions and in the case of the PCS defend our public services.
Without our trade unions there would for example be no NHS, National Minimum Wage or protection for agency workers. It is time to embrace the trade union movement within civil society as a force for good.
Chair, Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham