Ed Balls, public sector pay and the politics of austerity….
A lot has been said about Ed Balls speech. It seems proponents want to have their cake and eat it – either Mr Balls has been misunderstood or he has been understood correctly but he is right ‘jobs must be the priority’.
The first question I would ask is; “Is George Osborne freezing public sector pay to create jobs?” Surely, the answer has to be no. In fact, he is freezing public sector pay to serve his own agenda. If we accept this is so – and we accept the choice Ed Balls offers at face value – the question still remains why does Ed Balls support a freeze which is demonstrably not for the purposes he says his will be? Second, let’s deal with the myth that this is a straight choice between jobs and better public sector pay increases. It isn’t and saying it is does exactly fall into the beggar-thy-neighbour politics of austerity.
If a living wage were introduced in the public sector and the wage freeze effectively annulled, then yes it would cost *but* it would also raise revenue through an increased tax take. It may also, if introduced across the board, save the state £5 billion pounds. In other words it will pay for itself and probably leave a bit of spare over – money that could be spent on the job creation that proponents of the Balls position want to see. So, this is clearly a false choice we are being asked to make; one imposed by the Conservatives ideological agenda.
The public sector pay freeze is part of the assault on the public sector we are supposed to be resisting. Its a stratagem to demoralise public sector workers and chip away at union power so it can be shrunk more easily. Not only is the pay freeze unnecessary its also economically counterproductive. No rational reason exists for Ed Balls to support or even “accept” this policy. In doing so, in this area, he has clearly capitulated to the politics and economics of austerity.
Ed Balls is economically, ethically and politically wrong in his support the pay freeze. This is why I urge all Labour members to sign the below and call for an urgent re-think from Mr Balls: