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Respect to Owen Smith and Labour backing for public sector workers’ strike

low payBack in January 2012, just after the Tory-led government announced that public sector pay would be frozen and then rise by only 1% in the two years to 2015, which amounted to a significant pay cut in real terms, Labour’s Ed Balls (without prior consultation, we were informed at the time, with Ed Miliband) announced that Labour would support it:

I understand the anger in the public and private sectors at that income squeeze but the reality is given the economy failing as it is, that that pay restraint is going to have to continue.

And if people expect Labour to say ‘we’ll just oppose‘, we can’t do that. [It] would be irresponsible because the priority has got to be getting people into jobs rather than people being paid more.”

In recent days, we hear, some party officials have warned prospective Labour parliamentary candidates not to make pubic statements in support of this week’s strike. So all credit to shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith who said yesterday that public sector pay had been frozen “for too long” and that the upcoming strike on Thursday by teachers was “entirely legitimate”:

We don’t know because we need to see what the book’s like if and when we win the next election, however we have said we’ll stick to the spending plans during the first year. Would I like to see public sectors given a pay increase? Absolutely.

I completely understand the decision the teachers are taking to strike. I think it’s outrageous the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are trying to divide our country on this issue again between public sector workers and public sector users.”

Of course, Labour has made much of the cost of living for all workers. And public sector workers, in spite of Ed Balls, have returned to Labour in droves: Lord Ashcroft’s poll in January put Labour support amongst public sector workers at 51% (up 12%) with Tories on 20% (down 6%), UKIP on 10% (up 8%) and the Lib Dems collapsing to as few as 7% (down to 18%).

There are still more than 5.5million public sector workers in Britain. Two million of them are likely to be on strike on Thursday. They have seen their pay cut in real terms four years running. We should support them. Why should they be scapegoated for the incompetence and greed of the bankers. And it’s madness for Labour not to back some of its greatest supporters.

2 Comments

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    yet we forget they the real social scroungers in that house had that award 15000 you kid me not more than some have to live on yes it seems austerity is only for us plebbs jeff3

  2. Robert says:

    The award Mr Davies is for £7.500 but yes your right many of those people like nurses and teachers also have review boards that decide wages, people on the min wage which is many council workers will get more then the 1% of course, as the Min wage is expected to go up again by 30P plus an hour.

    But Ball’s is a Tory he even joined them and I think the poor thing is out of his political class he like Brown has reached up and reached to far they are not good enough.

    Ed Miliband has at least taken advice and given the correct answer to the strike we do not like strikes and we think they should get around the table but we do understand why people are striking, they are striking because they are agreeing with labour the cost of living crises is attacking the low paid and the professional teachers and nurses.

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