Emergency service workers are the best of us - let’s get them the pay they deserve

Published date
11 Sep 2017
This afternoon, I had the privilege of welcoming Rob, Natalie, William, Kathryn, Dave and Joe – union members and public sector emergency workers – to Congress. Listening to their stories of responding to tragedy was profoundly moving, humbling and inspiring.

This year, in the most demanding of circumstances, public servants like these have shown immense professionalism, humanity and bravery.

First responders, firefighters, paramedics, emergency control room staff, medics, nurses, hospital support staff, police, community support officers, local government and security staff...the list goes on and on.

Right across our public sector, working people have been picking up the pieces where politicians and businesses have failed. Many put their lives on the line, seeing and hearing things that few of us could bear.

And as Jo, a nurse from Stockport told us, many more came to work on their days and nights off, dropping everything to help those in need.

They really are the best of us.

So it’s frankly sickening to remember that, thanks to the government’s public sector pay restriction, those same workers have now endured seven years of real-terms pay cuts. On average, public servants are £3000 worse off than they were in 2010.

Already, people are struggling to get by. We’ve heard that nurses are struggling to afford basic necessities, and that some have even been forced to turn to food banks. And as inflation starts to bite, things will only get worse.

Rally for fair pay

That’s why, on October 17th, public servants will rally on Parliament Square in London, and many more of us will stand in solidarity with them.

We have a clear message for Theresa May: five million public servants need and deserve a pay rise. The public backs it. So the Treasury needs to get on with it.

The government is already wavering on this issue – they know we’re winning the argument. But we need to make sure that they don’t try to fob us off with half-measures or vague promises.

There can be no cherry-picking because the public service is a team. Paramedics can only save lives if ambulance call operators guide them on where to go. To perform essential surgeries, doctors depend on nurses, medical administrators and diligent hospital staff.

Of course, our firefighters, police and other frontline workers deserve a pay rise. But they’d be the first to tell you that their backroom colleagues shouldn’t be left behind.

And crucially, a fair pay rise for public servants can’t be used to justify further cuts to our public services. It’s not an either-or. We can afford to invest in our public services and in the people who staff them. In fact, we can’t afford not to.

So please join us at parliament on 17th October, and let’s tell this government that our public servants deserve better, and deserve it now.