Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Year's Resolution - Defend Sick Pay

I started the New Year off sick and am just now getting into work, my cough providing a percussion accompaniment to the ever more expensive train.

Whilst unpleasant, this is strangely appropriate, since we know that, in their quest to offer "red meat" to some of the least evolved of their constituents, the national employers' side negotiators in local government have our sick pay scheme in their sights.

There was, before the holiday, a modest amount of confusion in the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road as to whether the employers had in fact made an offer of a 1% pay rise "with strings" to local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is clear now that no offer has yet been made.

It is equally clear that, when it comes, the offer to end the pay freeze will be of an increase well below the current rate of price inflation (continuing, if we were to accept, the decline in our living standards). Furthermore, this paltry offer will be linked to unacceptable attacks on conditions of service (the "strings").

One of these which has been widely trailed is a "reform" of our sick pay scheme, which provides for a reasonable and civilised amount of pay for those who are unwell. It's not difficult to anticipate the arguments that will be advanced to attack the sick, because they will echo the arguments used to justify the assault upon our pensions.

We will be told that we are featherbedded public servants and that workers in unorganised areas of the private sector cope with being impoverished if they become unwell (or drag themselves in and share their infection with colleagues and customers).

No doubt we will also be told that many Tory donors in the insurance industry stand ready to sell us products which might make up for any sick pay we could lose...

Whilst I think it's obvious that reasonable sick pay provisions (which really reflect distributional justice within the workforce rather than generosity from the employers) are essential to decency in the workplace, I can also already hear the handwringers claiming that our members don't want to fight.

I therefore suggest two resolutions for the New Year. First, we need to take the argument for the defence of sick pay to our own members, win it and mobilise for action.

Secondly, if you do go into work with a cough then be careful not to infect anyone else - unless they are arguing against action to defend sick pay (in which case they deserve it...)

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the employers do make an offer around the 1% 'cap' that is linked to reducing the sick scheme then we must be careful that any mobilisation is not hung entirely on that fact - if I was the employer I may have that in mind then 'concede' the strings at the last, leaving the pay offer in place and potentially taking the wind out of any build up. In other words, get what they want on pay by throwing a smokescreen then clearing it up. The case for pay stands on its own merits (and on the economic argument)and our real task is to get that message across to members and activists. Anything that helps build on that should be utilised - but not become the central theme in its place.