Line in the sand

having survived my first post I thought I might add something about the strike I supported this week. Along with colleagues, friends and, indeed, family members, I participated in the 2 day strike by members of Unison for improved public sector pay. What a hard decision I thought it would be, and yet in the end it wasn’t, because it came down to doing what I said I would do, and not weaseling out when it got difficult.

As it stood the pay offer was simply not acceptable. It would not cover the additional costs caused by rises in prices for food, heating and, yes, council tax. Will additional public sector pay contribute to a spiral of inflation? I don’t know, but I do know that my colleagues get little enough. We accept lower salaries than private sector in return for other benefits – the often publicized pension arrangement is probably significant for quite a few people who have worked in public sector for their whole career, although many of us haven’t. For others, it may be the flexible conditions, or the chance to feel they are providing a valued service. In a number of cases it is likely to be because the job market is limited.

I have a varied team of staff who are excellent at what they do. They get less pay than if they worked for banks or supermarkets. I can’t reward them by giving them a bonus. They get the same pay as people who don’t perform well. Because I couldn’t restrict pay for poor performance either, should I need to do so. I can’t, in fact, offer anything to reward them, except a pat on the back. I can’t even afford to send them on training courses or to attend seminars or exhibitions or workshops or trade events, which does limit opportunities for professional development somewhat.

And now they have been offered a pay rise less than two-thirds the official rate of inflation.

So I went on strike.

I do know the arguments against it; in fact I have considerable sympathy for some of them. But what matters to me are my friends and colleagues, who deserve to be treated with respect and to have their efforts acknowledged and to earn enough to pay their bills without worrying.

So I’m off my soapbox now. I’m glad not everyone went on strike because services needed to keep going but I hope enough of us did to make a difference.

This feels unutterably smug, and I’m sorry if it seems that way, but I wanted to say it because sometimes it feels we have lost our way in the spin and hyperbole, and forgotten that you and I are important, even if we disagree. In fact, isn’t the right to disagree important too?

Go on then, it's your turn

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