We’re all in it together says Johnson? Like hell we are! Just after Sunak gave that extra Covid “shielding” to the bosses in his budget, the Department of Health recommended that hospital workers should get a pay cut! Yes, in the middle of the pandemic! Of course, they called it a 1% pay “rise”, but when inflation is 1.4% - or even 0.9%, by their chosen index - that’s a lie!
So now the usually very respectable Royal College of Nursing and health union Unison, have let it be known that they are building up strike funds.
The obvious points have been made. That 1% is an “insult” to those same “heroes” who this hypocritical government keeps heaping with praise.
And in a way, this is the real problem. Because despite all the heart-rending “official” coverage of frontline NHS staff fighting to keep patients with Covid alive, including Johnson himself, the government still thinks it can get away with cutting their pay.
In fact the same goes for the pay freeze for the rest of the public sector, announced last November. The whole of the civil service, all council workers, firefighters and even police will be getting a de facto pay cut over the coming year!
On top of it all, this January, the Department for Transport decided to attack railway workers’ pay, too: it recommended that 62,000 workers in 22 companies which the government took over during the pandemic, should have their pay frozen, not just for one year, but for two!
Making workers pay for the crisis
So yes, you couldn’t find a more literal example of a government telling the working class that it is going to pay for the crisis.
Sunak says that this “cost” is now as much as £407bn. And it includes the cost of serial government incompetence - enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. For instance, the £37bn given to just one of the many companies which picked up “Covid contracts” - in this case, Deloitte, the accountancy giant. And by the way, even with this largesse at its disposal, it was unable to establish an effective “test and trace” system over the course of 12 months!
Of course, throwing money at every Tom, Dick and Harry with a ministerial connection, is hardly a solution to Covid-related necessity. A certain amount of expertise is needed. But this isn’t a quality to be found in Johnson’s amateurish government and certainly not among the cowboys it picks to outsource vital jobs to!
Instead of handing out yet more to the capitalists, Sunak could certainly have taken money away from them, to help pay for all his borrowing. But he chose not to, even if many of them have never been richer.
The collective wealth of Britain’s billionaires grew by £25bn during lockdown, to £147bn. And then there are all the online businesses and supermarkets who’ve made a killing... among many others.
Shake the rich, smash the ice!
So the money is definitely there for pay rises. However, the working class will have to shake it out of the pockets of the rich - after sweeping away the shield that the government has mounted around them! It’s not going to be offered on plate, that’s for sure.
But while the government knows it hasn’t got a leg to stand on, it is also aware of the danger of placing hundreds of thousands of workers in exactly the same boat, all at the same time, by either freezing, cutting or refusing to increase their pay.
So Tory peer, “Lord” Bethell, who is also a junior health minister, was conveniently at hand to try to play workers off against each other and divide the ranks... He explained that a pay rise really wasn’t a good way to recognise nurses’ hard work during the pandemic, and that other workers were far worse off: “There are lots of people who have had an extremely tough time and who face a period of unemployment... (..) Nurses are well paid for the job, they have a secure job and they have other benefits”!
Exhausted and overworked nursing staff who are still fighting the pandemic in every ICU in the country were no doubt pleased to hear such “expert opinion” from this millionaire hereditary peer!
The reality is that through this pandemic, every worker in this land - if not every country - has had to face the fact that this divisive capitalist system which rests on exploitation, competition, nationalism and its twin, racism, and which has proven incapable of using its collective resources for the benefit of all, is absurd and outdated and deserves to be thrown out. And though we’re definitely not in “it” with Johnson, we’re certainly in it with every other worker.
United, the force of all of us together is strong enough to break through the ice of any kind of pay freeze and to win a decent livelihood for every member of the working class! Not to mention going much further and fighting to get rid of capitalism altogether.