Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Stay poor!"

Envy, spite, shit-stirring. How the Daily Mail is covering the news of a 2% pay rise amonst the most ordinary workers.

Yesterday's figures confirmed that consumer goods and services keep going up. Whatever the cause, the fact is ordinary people are paying more for transport, clothing, food and drinks. Utility bills may have remained stable, but last year's hike was so spectacular that electricity and gas companies will have enough money coming out of their ears for years to come.

The Trade Unions' view is that the families whose purchasing power was already terribly low (to the point of having to use credit cards for ordinary supermarket shopping, cue analysing why the crisis took place) shoud not be penalised even further. In the words of TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, "a generalised wage freeze across the economy will make the downturn worse not better", adding that: "'The last thing our precarious economy needs would be a further collapse in consumer confidence caused by a standstill in household budgets". David Prentis of UNISON also noted that "Low paid workers already know that the cost of living is running high. They have the proof every time they reach the supermarket checkout, or when another red bill comes through the letterbox".

So the modest wage rise (just over 2%- for most that's £20 a month) amongst public workers that is currently being negotiated, should be saluted as a step in the right direction. Amongst other categories, nurses, care workers, binmen and teachers, not particularly known for enjoying lavish lifestyles, will receive a little help.

Not in the opinion of the Daily Mail. Their logic isn't that everybody should enjoy a pay rise. No. They argue that nobody should enjoy one, however marginal. The Daily Mail doesn't point towards the benefits of union-led negotiation and union membership. It doesn't mention the importance of helping all workers, private sector ones included, to combat the recession. Instead, our favourite tabloid is doing what it does best: stirring dung.

"The deal which caused outrage amongst business leaders", is how the Daily Mail brands it, quoting John Philpott (from the bosses' organisation CIPD) arguing that "Cash-strapped private businesses are asking staff to make sacrifices to save jobs. The Government should put a clamp on public sector pay rises".

Let's remind the Daily Mail that public sector workers have not had pay increases equal or even slightly above inflation for many years, which meant taking a real term pay cut during the binge years of Cool Britannia and you've-never-had-it-so-good. Of course, it's easy for the Mail to do a strawman and focus on the good deals enjoyed by top managers in the public sector, but I don't recall the Mail and friends ever arguing for Soviet-style wage differentials.

The oh-so-scandalous 2% pay increase is mainly aimed at some of the country's lowest paid workers (29 per cent -that's 389,814 people- working in local government do not even earn the basic amount estimated by the Joseph Rowntree Trust to have a decent standard of living), so rather than spurting bile over them, the Daily Mail should wonder why its editor and chief columnists seem to have only just discovered the scandal of city bankers' pay and bonuses.

Also on the subject:
Speak your branes!


Carla said...

Good article.

Why does the Daily Mail have to turn into a slanging match between public vs private sector? The private sector had it soooo much better than the public in the good years so why begrudge the public sector for having it a bit better (not much) now?

The idea that pay is feeding into inflation should have been taken care of throughout when City people and top boardrooms were running rings around the gvmt (they still do) and enjoying huge bonuses.

Richard T said...

Last year, when the government was imposing 2 plus year pay settlements across the public sector at then below inflation levels, the gutter press (the Torygraph mail and scum) were shouting in support. Now that the Government's chicken has come home to roost the same gutter press is encouraging breach of contract. Don't you does love them?