Thursday 26 October 2006

Challenging Brown Over Public Sector Pay

Today I have written to Gordon Brown to warn him of dire political consequences if the Government follows through on its threat to impose a pay cut on over a million NHS workers.

In their evidence to the Pay Review Body that sets NHS staff pay, the Government have sought to impose an increase of just 1.5%. NHS staff unions have rightly pointed out that with inflation pushing on towards 4% the Government's position represents a significant pay cut for health care staff.

This is madness. The Government seems to have launched itself on an electoral suicide mission. We appear to be sleepwalking into a winter and spring of discontent with possible industrial action being provoked right across the public sector early in the New Year, just before the local, Scottish and Welsh elections.

Polls this week show that Labour's rating is at its lowest in over 20 years. They also show that the public and NHS staff are furious with the Government's cuts and privatisation policies which are ripping through our health care and other essential public services.

Imposing a pay cut on health care workers and across the public sector next year will fuel the anger amongst NHS staff and other public servants who already feel betrayed by the Government. Telling them that they either accept a pay cut or risk more redundancies and service cuts smacks of bullying to me and will do nothing but alienate hundreds of thousands of core Labour supporters.

My letter to Gordon Brown reads as follows:

Dear Gordon,

I am writing to express my concern regarding the Government’s proposal of a pay award of just 1.5% across the public sector and with particular regard to workers in the NHS and civil service. With inflation nearing 4% (as set out in evidence given to the Pay Review Body), this can only be construed as a pay cut for millions of workers, adding fuel to the growing concern of NHS Staff Unions, civil servants, public sector workers and the general public over this government’s handling of public services.

As I am sure you will agree, public sector workers have very demanding jobs and work hard to provide high quality public services. The imposition of such a pay cut will have a highly detrimental effect on the morale of these dedicated public servants and instead of rewarding them for their professionalism and expertise undermines their work, achievement and potential. Combined with the Government’s ongoing plans to introduce the private sector into the NHS and other public services, such a policy critically threatens the quality of health and public services we are able to provide.

Additionally, in a period when, as I am sure you are only too well aware, it is essential that the Government reconnects with our core supporters, the provision of publicly funded and efficient public services is a key priority for our members, supporters and the electorate in general. The polls this week suggest that the party’s rating is at its lowest level in over 20 years. This programme of public sector cuts is already causing considerable anger throughout the movement and can only alienate hundreds of thousands more of our natural supporters.

Many now fear that the Government seems to have launched itself on an electoral suicide mission in advance of the local, Scottish and Welsh elections. The Government appears to be sleepwalking into a spring of discontent with possible industrial action being provoked across the public sector early in the New Year. I urgently appeal to you to fully reconsider these plans before any further resentment is allowed to grow, and the party and Government are seriously damaged as a result.

Yours sincerely

John McDonnell MP
Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington