Frances O’Grady general secretary of the TUC must be blunt with Jeremy Corbyn. She needs to tell him removing the pay cap is not enough. All public service workers need a return to free collective bargaining.
At one time the pay and conditions of all public workers was determined in negotiations between their chosen union representatives and the spokespeople appointed by their employers,
This was an adult way for conducting affairs and when free of Cabinet intervention was almost entirely free of industrial disputes. Collective bargaining also brought to the table issues beyond the salary cheese, like pensions, workloads and training.
However removing the pay cap, welcome as that would be, is not enough. Fair pay and equality in the workplace can only be delivered across the public sector through free collective bargaining.
Labour policies to end austerity continue to gain traction on the back of the general election result. The public sector pay cap is dead in the water, it is simply a matter of when not if it is removed. But is that sufficient? If, as is being suggested, the government actually takes note of the Pay Review Bodies reports when will public servants actually start to catch up what has been lost.
Front line services such as fireman, police and nurses will have public as well as government sympathy but what of the thousands of other public servants who have seen their incomes diminish in real terms over the past 7 years?
Not all are covered by the pay review system, which itself is restricted in terms of the government remit given to it. To secure the right level of pay to attract and retain skilled workers across the public sector we need to see a return to direct collective bargaining between employers and unions.
Pay Review bodies, even when being listened to by governments, never had the final say and could and were overturned by Ministers. Free collective bargaining is needed to deliver fair pay rewards for public servants and Labour needs to add this demand to its progressive public sector policies.
Roger Jeary, Former Director of Research, Unite