Civil service workers in Northern Ireland are very angry but not shocked by First Minister Peter Robinson’s call for a two year pay freeze for those earning more than £21,000 a year. Robinson, just like his Assembly colleagues from all parties, needs to portray public service workers as a drain on public finances to make way for the draconian cuts to public services. Civil servants are an easy and popular target of attack and politicians are happy to peddle the myth they should feel lucky to have a job. It suits their purpose to paint a picture that civil servants have inflated salaries and outlandish pensions. The reality is very different. Robinson’s proposals would mean that these workers, many of whom are at the bottom of their pay scale, would stay at the bottom of their pay scales without incremental progression and being paid less than the rate for the job. Years of Treasury restraint which set limits on civil service pay means that most workers have, in real terms, already taken a 10% pay cut over the last 8-10 years. Civil servants are the only public servants whose pay is directly negotiated with the Assembly. This means they are the only public servants whose pay can be cut by the Assembly. It’s a flavour of what the Assembly would do to health and education workers if they could. Behind the public pretence of challenging the Tory cuts our local politicians are more than happy to make workers pay for the economic crisis caused by the greed of millionaire speculators. Public and private sector workers must stand together and unite against this onslaught on low paid workers. We shouldn’t allow this Assembly to divide workers or to pick us off one by one. Opposition to attacks on civil service pay must now become a central demand of the general fight against cuts. It will also be necessary to prepare the ground for a campaign of industrial action if the Assembly begins to move towards cutting pay.
On Saturday 26 June I travelled with two comrades from South Africa's Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, the Socialist Party's counterpart in South Africa) to a mass meeting they had called in Rustenburg, about two hours north west of Johannesburg.
The city of Rustenburg is home to 400,000 people and is best known to Australians as the host of several World Cup games at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Walk out on 9th December - 1.30pm Thurs 9th Dec, Belfast City Hall
150 school students walked out from schools in Belfast today to show their opposition to increased tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). The protest comes ahead of an anticipated mass walkout in Belfast on the day of the vote in Westminster.