George Osborne’s autumn statement issued on Wednesday contained a hidden gem. He called for a review of national pay awards in the public sector, “to be more responsive to local conditions so as not to squeeze out the private sector”.
This morning BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme contained a very worrying interview with the Head of the North East Chamber of commerce, James Ramsbotham, where he complained that “inflated” public sector wages were somehow strangling growth in the private sector.
The example was used that a paramedic in Newcastle is getting paid 60% more than a person with the equivalent skills base in the private sector. In Northern Ireland it is argued that public sector workers earn 9% more than their colleagues in local businesses.
The sub text here is a classic Tory one. They want to create a low wage, high profit economy and a means to do this is to encourage a race to the bottom rather than aspire to lift salaries for all workers. This is achieved by a deliberate and cynical policy of divide a rule, pitting workers against each other and encouraging the politics of envy. Hence their contempt for public sector pensions, and the nasty practice of portraying public sector workers as benefiting from “gold plated, gilt edged, copper bottomed” pensions paid for by their equivalents in the private sector.
We are campaigning for a Living Wage as a basis to raise the pay of all workers. Ken Livingston, and Boris (yes really) have blazed a trail for this in London as a means to lift hundreds of thousands of low paid workers out of the poverty trap. Ed Miliband is working hard to raise the profile, and the plight of those on the minimum wage, and those on short hours who are expected to survive on £11,000 per annum.