THE BLOG

Those on Strike Today Are People Who Keep Our Country Going - They Deserve More From Their Employers

10/07/2014 07:55 BST | Updated 08/09/2014 10:59 BST

Imagine, if you need to, being on below average wages and finding out that because some wealthy bankers crashed the economy you wouldn't be getting a pay rise any time soon.

As I say, only imagine this if you need to. There is a very good chance you know exactly how it feels. If you work in the public sector, it has happened to you. If you work in the private sector, it is highly likely your employer has picked up the baton from the government and cut your living standards too.

Now imagine being a civil servant with years of experience on the average civil service salary of just over £24,000 - below the national average wage. In 2010, the coalition government froze your pay for two years, then capped it at 1% for a further two years - and announced recently the cap could extend for years to come. At the same time, you were forced to pay more each month into your pension.

Unfortunately for you, the government didn't freeze or cap the cost of buying things. It didn't stop electricity bills from rising by 22% or gas bills spiralling by 57%. It didn't stop inflation-busting rail fare increases or halt rising food prices. So, by next year, you will find your income will be almost 19% lower under this government than it would have been if it had kept pace with the cost of living.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of civil servants who live in London being paid several thousands of pounds less than the average salary, your losses will be higher than this, even before you factor in the eye-watering cost of buying or renting a home in the capital.

So what do you do about it? Well, the first thing you might do is go to your employer, explain your situation - how you can't make ends meet, how you're having to cut back on treats for the kids, day trips, new clothes - and ask for a pay rise.

Suppose your employer said no, you might ask again if they would be prepared to discuss it, to negotiate with you to see if there was some way you could explain your plight in more detail and reach an agreement. Suppose your employer again said no, there would be no negotiation, the matter was closed. What would you do then?

This is exactly the scenario facing millions of public sector workers and this is why 1.5 million of them are on strike today.

These are the people who teach our children, who empty our bins, help the unemployed back to work, run into burning buildings when everyone else is running the other way, and collect the taxes that make all these other essential public services possible. These are people who keep our country going and they deserve more from their employers.

Sure they get praise and warm words, and platitudes about how much they are valued. That is until they are forced to stand up for their rights. Then ministers put the boot in with some old-fashioned union-bashing, entirely missing the point that if praise, warm words and platitudes paid the bills, all would be well and there would be no need for a strike.

But they don't and there is. Because what these people really need is a pay rise.