As a public sector worker, I am watching the growing fervour towards coordinated national industrial action with interest, but also with anger and despair. I have been a probation officer for 12 years and I still hold on to some last threads of pride for the role. During that time, my career has been systematically vandalised by the coalition and Conservative governments.
Napo, my trade union, has estimated that if wages had kept pace with inflation since 2010, they would have risen by 42%. In that time, probation officers have had their pay increased by just 1%.
Sections of the public will feel that this is no time for such disputes and that there are bigger problems facing the country. The government will no doubt stoke this and attempt to set working people against each other. But we must remind ourselves that we all benefit from properly resourced public services. We realise this acutely in times of need when our expectations jar with real-world experiences – waiting hours for an ambulance, crimes not being investigated, teachers, barristers and social workers leaving in droves. People will continue to leave at a greater rate than new staff can be found. This is a workers’ market, with high employment yet high levels of vacancies.
The public sector continues to pay the highest price for the 2008 financial crash. There will be calls to postpone demands for better pay and conditions until after the dust has settled from the pandemic and perhaps the Ukraine war. Perhaps we should wait another 12 years.
I thank the transport unions for putting their heads above the parapet and going on strike. It is the last resort, but it is long overdue.
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