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End Support For Pay Freezes

Friday, February 15, 2013

GMB welcomes Labour's promise to fight next election on living standards and calls on party leaders to end support for public sector pay freeze.

Round-up shows that the number of councils in England and Wales now paying or committed to pay a living wage has risen to 37 with all 32 councils in Scotland doing so says GMB.

GMB, the union for public services, commented on the announcement today that Labour will go into next election promising to introduce a 10p tax rate and will seek to reverse falls in living standards. See press reports of his speech.

This co-incides with a GMB round-up which shows that the number of councils in England and Wales now paying or committed to pay a living wage has risen to 37. All 32 councils in Scotland now pay or are committed to pay a living wage.

Recent additions are Barking and Dagenham (£9 per hour minimum), Deal, Greenwich and Harrow. This is in addition to Ashfield, Blackpool, Birmingham, Brent, Brighton & Hove, Calderdale, Camden, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chorley, Croydon, Dartford, Derby City, Ealing, Enfield, Gloucester City, Hackney, Hounslow, Hyndburn, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newark & Sherwood, Newcastle, Norwich, Oxford City, Preston, Sheffield, Southwark, Swansea, Wirral, Wolverhampton and York.

GMB last month launched a campaign to win a living wage of £7.45ph (£8.55ph in London) for 280,000 low paid workers in councils across England and Wales.

GMB has secured the support of Labour leader Ed Miliband for higher pay for low paid council staff. See notes to editors for Ed Miliband comment.

Typical council jobs which pay £6.30/£6.38ph are home helps, school dinner staff, teaching assistants, cleaners, grave diggers, admin assistants, sure-start workers, refuse staff, caretakers, meals on wheels staff, care workers and school crossing patrols.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said "GMB welcome Ed Miliband announcing today that Labour Party deplores the falls in real living standards under this government and him saying that people need higher incomes to support economic growth. His bold vision of fighting the next election by pledging to improve living standards is great news.

It needs to be pointed out that such a view are incompatible with the Labour leaderships previous support for the public sector pay freeze.

Probably the most significant contributor to the wage stagnation he so obviously deplored has been the freeze on pay of over 6 million public sector workers. In the past both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have said they support public sector pay restraint to the dismay of low paid GMB members like school dinner ladies, refuse collectors, street cleaners, hospital porters and school classroom assistants.

We now look forward to both Eds making it clear that as part of the drive to improve living standards they will no longer support the public sector pay freeze.

They should commend Labour councils now paying or committed to pay a living wage."


Contact; Brian Strutton 07860 606 137 0208 947 3131 of GMB press office 07921 289880 or Scotland Alex McLuckie Senior Organiser for Public Sector 07885 348 269 or 0141 332 8641

Notes to editors

Report of speech on BBC website

Labour will re-introduce the 10 pence starting rate of tax scrapped by Gordon Brown in 2009 if it is re-elected, Ed Miliband has announced.

Mr Miliband said it was a "mistake" to get rid of it and the move would send a "clear signal" his party was on the "side of working people".

The move would be paid for by a new "mansion tax" on £2m properties, he indicated in a speech in Bedford.

Treasury sources said Labour had no "economic credibility".

The decision to scrap the 10p tax band - first announced in the 2007 Budget - was highly controversial with Labour MPs at the time although Ed Miliband, who was a cabinet member under Mr Brown, supported it.

But the Labour leader said the party has rethought its position and would reinstate the 10p band if it is returned to power after the next election.

'Fairer taxes'

"We would put right a mistake made by Gordon Brown and the last Labour government," he said.

"We would use the money raised by a mansion tax to reintroduce a lower 10 pence starting rate of tax, with the size of the band depending on the amount raised. This would benefit 25 million basic rate taxpayers."

Labour has previously indicated it would only set out tax and spending commitments in the run-up to the next election - scheduled in 2015 - and that doing so earlier would not be sensible.

But Mr Miliband said the 10p pledge would send a clear message about Labour's commitment "to a fairer tax system and improving the living standards of working people" as well as showing the party is "moving on from the past".

The idea of a mansion tax was first proposed by the Lib Dems before the last election although the Conservatives oppose the move and the policy was not adopted by the coalition government.

In the speech, Mr Miliband also reiterated his support for a temporary cut to VAT to boost economic growth and call for action on train fares, "unfair" bank charges and capping interest on payday loans.

Criticising the government's economic policy as a "race to the bottom in wages and skills", he accused the Conservatives and Lib Dems of rewarding those at the top while "squeezing" everyone else.

Speaking in Bedford, where in 1957 Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously said Britons had "never had it so good", the Labour leader said that falling wages and rising prices mean many now feel "they will never have it so good again".

'Building not squeezing'

Mr Miliband said: "People in Britain are putting in the hours - doing the shifts - as never before. But something has changed in the last few years. "There's less chance of promotion, less chance of a pay rise, and at the same time, prices just go up and up and up: petrol for the car, tickets for the train, childcare for the kids, deposits for a first home.

"The 'squeezed middle' has never been so squeezed - and it looks like it will be that for years to come. It's no wonder our economy isn't growing when people can't afford to buy the things that British businesses try to sell."

He criticised the government's decision to scrap the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000 from April 2013.

"We need very successful entrepreneurs in Britain, making profits, being rewarded," he will say. "But we can't succeed as a country just by hoping wealth will trickle down from those at the top to everyone else, our economy won't turn around that way."

'Labour's mess'

And he challenged David Cameron's rhetoric of ensuring Britain is competing in the "global race".

"It is essential that we compete with China and India and others," he will say. "But I have to level with you, Britain won't win a race to the bottom by competing in the world as a low skill, low wage economy."

In response, Treasury sources said Labour "wrecked" the economy with excessive spending and borrowing - and their plans would result in a £200 billion increase in borrowing.

"But we know how hard it is for hard-working people up and down the country," an aide to the Chancellor said. "That's why as we deal with Labour's mess we have also cut income tax, capped benefits, frozen fuel duty and frozen council tax."

In a separate development, Jon Cruddas, who is coordinating Labour's policy review, will launch an inquiry into "The Condition of Britain" to be led by the centre-left thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

2) comment by Ed Miliband on living wage.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said: "In the last election we gave a commitment to ask Whitehall departments to follow the lead of those already paying the living wage, and today Labour councils across the country are leading the way in committing to pay a living wage to their staff and subcontracted workers.

The Living Wage goes to the heart of our vision for One Nation. It's about building an economy where everyone has a stake, not where millions of people feel they never have a chance for a decent life however hard they work.

I hope more local authorities and other employers will look at how the Living Wage can help them achieve their aim to build stronger communities and better public services."

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