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Public Sector Pay: Proposed Strike Action – [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

We are here to debate what public sector workers need in terms of pay, not to make slightly cheap points.

Within the first 100 days of a Labour Government, we will outlaw fire and rehire; ban zero-hours contracts; secure rights at work from day one; reform statutory sick pay; reform and strengthen paternity and maternity rights; oversee the roll-out of fair pay agreements to drive up pay and conditions for workers; and introduce an economic policy that will deliver high skilled, well-paid jobs, such as those with Great British energy, which will be a publicly owned energy company to invest in clean UK power.

In this economic climate, and after a decade of stagnating pay, it is understandable that our trade unions have come to the point where they have to strike and ballot their workers. Nobody wants to see a strike. Let us be clear: nobody wants people to be forced into that situation. It is a failure of management and Government that these strikes are now proposed. It is up to the Government to get around the table and avert any strikes.

If they play politics, people will remember. In the case of National Rail, the then Transport Secretary, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), refused, for no good reason, to meet the trade unions to try to secure a deal. I have met my constituency members of the CWU. The Government could intervene in the Royal Mail dispute, because the issues are not just about pay—they are about all of the conditions that go with that work, as well as the universal service obligation. The Government could help in that sector, but they choose not to. We will update trade union legislation to make it fit for a modern economy, and empower working people collectively to secure fair pay, terms and conditions.

I would, if I had time, talk about my brief. The police do not have the right to strike, but they have turned away from the Police Remuneration Review Body because they felt that the process has been so unfair. I do not have time to talk about our fire service, with which I also work. I met the Cornwall branch of the Fire Brigades Union yesterday. The Government have failed to introduce the emergency services network, which has been promised for years and the overspend amounts to millions of pounds. That means that cuts are being sought simply to fund this Government’s mistakes.

In conclusion, I want to leave the Minister with some more questions. I have asked a few already, but it would be helpful to hear her say that she will not use these situations to provoke rather than to solve. It is the Government’s role to get in the mix with these problems and to try to solve them, not to stoke division. We have seen a lot of that from this Government, and it is not helpful. It would also be helpful to hear whether the Minister is committed not just to protecting public sector pay, but to doing all she can to enhance it, so that people can deliver the services they love so much, and on pay that means they can afford to feed their families.