Usually today I’d be waxing lyrical about St Andrew’s Day. Not today. Today, something more prominent…the biggest industrial action we’ve seen in a great many years.
Whether you agree with striking or not – I don’t want to debate strike action today. I understand why people thought it was wrong for people to strike because of its affect on the community. I also understand why people did strike too. It’s not a decision people make lightly.
What I do think is our current government have treated your average public sector employee like CRAP. Yes, we’re in a recession. Yes, we need to try and deal with our deficit. But why exactly, are we picking on the public sector to do that?
It makes me really angry.
As a Christian, I try to have grace on people, but boy do David Cameron, George Osborne & Michael Gove test my ability to be gracious.
Here’s what makes me angry.
The average public sector wage is £28,000 apparently. But this of course takes all the ‘big kahunas’ at the top of the food chain. Some of them are to blame for the mess they’ve made of public sector services, and have been paid off to leave. The people who were doing a great job but been made redundant because of job cuts – not so lucky. 1/3 of the public sector earn below £21,000.
I’m in agreement with the retirement age increasing. We’re living longer, and it makes sense to do this.
I’m not agreement with making people pay more into their pension funds, work longer and get less than was agreed at the time when they entered into the Public Sector workforce.
A local Edinburgh councillor told me the ‘Pensions’ the public sector get are better than those in the Private Sector. Well, maybe they are – I think that’s very difficult to compare the whole of the public sector with the whole of the private sector. I will say that it’s likely that on average, those in Private Sector get paid much better than those in the Public Sector, and consequently should have more extra to contribute to their pension fund. Also the Public Sector workers don’t get ‘bonuses’. I’d also like to know where the good pensions are. I know a recently retired policeman and a recently retired doctor – both are having to do part-time jobs because their pension is not enough to live on.
I’m sick of the description of the public sector being a ‘burden on the taxpayer‘. Ok then. Let’s see how we all do if your house goes on fire and there’s no fire brigade to risk their life to rescue you and your property. No paramedics to call out when you have an accident or heart attack or your kid stops breathing because of an asthma attack or seizure. No nurses. No doctors. No physiotherapists. No teachers to educate your children while you work to pay the bills. No Community Education workers to engage young people into becoming a credit to their communities, or helping people become more literate or supporting them into becoming productive citizens. No social workers to help children and adults with learning disabilities or the elderly or helping find families for children in care. No one to help you get planning permission for your house. No one protecting the culture, treasures or buildings of your town or city. No one to help your kid cross busy roads safely on their way to and from school.
Do you know how much I earned when I worked as a Community Education Worker back in 2006/7? Approximately £16,500 per year. To run a community centre, manage 23 staff, develop a youth work programme and attend numerous community council and other community group and multi-partnership forum meetings. Even when I was ‘off work’ I had to respond to calls at 9 p.m. at night if something happened at one of the many youth groups we ran, or the street team work we did. A university degree was an essential requirement of that job.
I would have earned more, working less hours and needing only basic high school level qualifications if I’d been a Checkout assistant in Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
I also paid all my taxes. And contributed to my pension fund (because it comes out of my monthly salary just like it would in the private sector).
And I served the community.
I might add the a good chunk of the people I worked with were women and single parents. In fact, women account for 73% of the public sector workforce. And we already know that women on average earn a lot less than men.
What really angers me is that the public sector already had taken a hit, with lots of job cuts and budget cuts – and yet somehow they are expected to meet lots of government targets. Why should it be targeted again?
Meanwhile, the big bankers are getting crazy bonuses they don’t pay tax on despite the fact their employees further down the food chain are being made redundant. Sorry, if business is doing so badly you have to make people redundant, that is not a time to give yourself a bonus.
And if you’re in debt to the government, how is it you can earn a big chunk of money without paying tax on it?
How about the huge number of entrepreneurs and small business who avoid paying tax on earnings by getting people to pay them in cash?
Or the very rich who avoid paying tax and stamp duty on their mansions by putting their money into off-shore accounts?
From what I can tell, George Osborne is bringing back socio-economic class divide. He is making the poorer even more poorer, and letting the rich stay richer. And every week I have people coming into my centre for counselling because they need to terminate their pregnancy – not because they don’t want to be a parent, because they know they cannot afford to not work, but they can’t afford childcare so they can work. My friend who is a qualified nursery nurse only earned £50 a month by the time she paid for childcare for one child and commuting costs.
It kinda makes me want to go camp out in St Andrew’s Square. Or maybe down in Westminster…
For more posts/articles on the strike: