The fight for Social Equality


Britain was already one of the most unequal countries in the developed world but we have had two years of the Tory led coalition presenting a crisis of capitalism as a crisis of public expenditure and seizing the excuse to finish Thatcher’s work.  The best-off 1% of the British population now takes home a greater share of national income than at any time since directly after the First World War (Danny Dorling, “The case for austerity among the rich”). We are truly back to a “gilded age” for the über rich.


Yet, as Dorling points out and contrary to the myth that allowing the rich to get richer creates jobs, employment levels in Britain were at their highest between 1945 and 1979, when the richest 1% had their lowest shares of national income. We don’t need austerity – we need social equality.


Grotesque inequality marks Britain like a severe burn:  a ground breaking study has shown that the more unequal a society the greater the social ills, such as sickness levels, mental illness, low life expectancy, low levels of social trust, lower and more unequal levels of educational attainment, and a higher crime rate (Wilkinson and Pickett, “The Spirit Level”).

Chronic inequality is reflected in all important social measurements. In February 2010 a Government commissioned report (“Fair Society, Healthy Lives”), led by Professor Marmot found,

“… a social gradient in health – the lower a person’s social position, the worse his or her health…Health inequalities result from social inequalities…Inequalities in health arise because of inequalities in society – in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age…Taking action to reduce inequalities in health does not require a separate health agenda, but action across the whole of society”


Inequality and the associated ills is deeply embedded in the civil service: in the disproportionate representation of “junior” and ethnic minority staff in misconduct, poor performance, and poor attendance cases; in the differential award by grade, ethnicity, and disability of performance box markings and PRP; in the gender pay gap; and in the low pay presided over by senior officials pulling down £150-200k pa and huge bonuses.

The Whitehall Studies, a long term health study of civil servants, show that sick and death rates in the civil service are in sharp inverse ratio to grade: “our” Perm Secs (and “our” SoS) will be pulling down their huge pensions a lot longer than most of us will “enjoy” our shrinking pensions.


Yet this core inequality in our very lives is not reflected in a coherent, national, NEC led programme on issues such as ill-health policies and sick leave trigger points. PCS lacks a national equality campaign that spreads best practice, ensures the equality checking of all personnel policies, robustly and legally challenges management failings. It is time to put that right.

PCS members struggling to make ends meet will never enjoy equality of treatment in the workplace and their children will never enjoy “equality of opportunity” in an unequal society.  PCS should lead the fight for a visible, vibrant labour movement campaign to reverse the decades of growing inequality. A clarion call for equality has the potential to unite public and private sector workers, employed and unemployed.


Working people in Greece and France have shown that they have had enough of austerity – they don’t want to pay for the crimes of others and the failure of a system which is not theirs. Even the recent local government elections show that the Coalition’s austerity programme is rejected by huge swathes of the population even if that rejection is not manifested in a radical alternative. The time is right for the trade unions – irrespective of their affiliation or non-affiliation to Labour – to make the case for a sharp reversal of a level of inequality that our parents and grand parents thought had come to an end in a “post-war settlement.”

Support Motions A127 and A129!

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