Corbyn pledges as the Tories try to divide and rule with pay rises
by Conrad Landin and Steve Sweeney in Brighton
TORIES are seeking to “divide people on the cheap,” Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday as the government offered a miserly concession to prison guards and coppers.
Downing Street announced yesterday that it is to “lift” the 1 per cent pay cap with police receiving a measly pay rise of 2 per cent and guards just 1.7 per cent.
However, as inflation currently stands at 2.9 per cent, the concessions still amount to a real-terms pay cut for cash-strapped officers while other public-sector workers have been kept in the dark about any changes to their wages.
To a rapturous reception at TUC Congress, Mr Corbyn said: “As inflation rises to nearly 3 per cent, they try to divide people on the cheap.
“[Prison officers’ union POA] is right: a pay cut is a pay cut and we must be united in breaking the pay cap for all workers.
“So let me be absolutely clear today. The Labour Party totally rejects the Tories’ attempt at divide and rule, to play one sector off against another.
“A Labour government will end the public-sector pay cap and give all workers the pay rise they deserve and so desperately need.”
Public-sector wages have been strangled by a 1 per cent cap for the past seven years since the Tories came to power with their Lib Dem collaborators in 2010.
Since the general election, Labour’s left-wing leadership has joined forces with unions to force the issue back onto the political agenda.
The heroic efforts of emergency workers after recent terror attacks and the fire at Grenfell Tower have also raised the profile of the campaign to scrap the cap.
Announcing the U-turn yesterday, Treasury Secretary Liz Truss said: “Our talented and hard-working public-sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded.
“We will continue to ensure that the overall package for public-sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that we can deliver world-class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole.”
But Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan told a Morning Star fringe event: “We are very clear that this is a pay cut and we will be looking to co-ordinated action to defeat [the pay cap].”
Unison leader Dave Prentis acknowledged that the decision was a “tiny step in the right direction” but said it did not go far enough. “There must be no selective lifting of the cap,” he said.
“No one part of the public sector is any more deserving than the rest.” Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said coordinated industrial action on the issue was “very likely.”
Asked if his union could still strike if they did not get the legally required 50 per cent ballot turnout, he said: “If they haven’t managed to hit an artificial threshold that this government have foolishly put onto the statute books, then I will stand by our members and we will all live, including the government, we will all live with the consequences of that.”
Mr Corbyn also used his speech to urge young workers who have “got involved in politics for the first time” to unionise.
“Winning a Labour government, even one with a programme to transform the country, which is now our goal, is simply not enough,” he said.
“That is why the most important thing any worker can do is to join a trade union.”