A message from a public sector worker

24 Nov

I’m tired of reading unfair criticism of the public sector; it’s in my timeline on Twitter, it riddles the national press like Cancer and even some of my friends seem to think it’s okay to do. They are wrong, they are all wrong!

I’m sick to death of reading some of the Public Sector workers that I look up to talking, almost apologetically, about working in the sector they do. I work in the public sector and I’m proud of this fact! Collectively, the work We do is amazing, We make a difference every single day; We are a diverse and multi-talented workforce dedicated to serving our communities. You would miss us if we are not there and I sincerely hope you never have to experience this.

You need to understand that We are angry, You need to understand where that anger comes from. We are angry because we have a Government that is striking at our very heart, willfully eroding our ability to deliver outstanding public services; We are angry that colleagues have lost their jobs to redundancy and that the loss of their skills and experience makes us collectively weaker; We are angry that our pensions are under attack; and We are angry that there is so little understanding that the Sector many like criticising most is paradoxically the Sector they rely on most.

On 30th November the public sector unions have declared a day of strike action and rightly so. Industrial action is never something we relish doing, We’d all rather be doing our jobs, the jobs we love. Striking is a last resort, but what other options do we have to make our voices heard than standing together in protest?

I’m serious here, show me another way, convince me we can show our opposition to this Government’s erosion of our services in some other way and I’ll recant all this in a heartbeat.

I suspect a lot of the criticism is bourne of ignorance of exactly what it is that we do, I encounter this all the time when I talk to people. Channeling the immortal voice of Tyler Durden allow me to explain:

Here it is, We collect your bins; We plan, build and maintain your roads; We make sure company’s maintain certain compliances; We make sure restaurants don’t poison you; We run your libraries; We care for the children no one else can or will; We safeguard vulnerable adults and children; We manage the residential care homes that you put your relatives in when you can no longer cope; We heal and care for you when you are sick; We fight your fires; We police your streets; We strive to communicate with communities in the best way we can; and We do all this on lower-than-average salaries, ever-decreasing funds and expectations of savings to be delivered.

Think about this, I mean really think about this, read it again if you need to…now think about this: Do. Not. Fuck. With. Us.

Support the public sector, we’re fighting to best deliver the services you rely on!



18 Responses to “A message from a public sector worker”

  1. Dave Plummer November 24, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Really bloody well said!


    • paulcoxon81 November 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks Dave that’s really kind of you to say. I was quite nervous about posting it as wanted to get it right, it’s important to me 🙂


      • Dave Plummer November 25, 2011 at 12:03 am #

        You needn’t have worried! Nail head definitely hit. It’s going down quite well with assorted PCS folk on Facebook too.


  2. mastersorbust November 25, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    An interesting post to be sure Paul and I am probably not going to endear myself to you with this response.

    I have never and will never work in the public sector. That is not to say I don’t, as you say, a consume public sector services, of course I do, I live in the UK….BUT…..I am not convinced that everyone I have come across in dealings with various departments both in central and local government attacks their work with the fervor with which you write.

    Having worked for several private sector organisations I have seen pensions erode in their provision to employees and job insecurity and the rightsizing of organisations become defacto. Holidays have increased but only in line with EU legislation and the flexibility of work described to me by friends and contacts that work in the public sector being far greater than anything I have seen in all but a few private sector organisations. Pay reviews have always been inflation related and in the last 3 years largely frozen and the drive for increases in productivity and reduction in resource a constant and ongoing challenge to deliver value to shareholders.

    Of course the country and it’s citizens are entitled to public services, it is the revenues from theirs and yours taxes that funds the country but if this country was UK plc, the plc board would be demanding cuts and increased productivity in this climate as the overhead is too high and the overdraft out of control.

    On an individual level of course I sympathise will the people who having life changing decisions impacting on them at the moment but on a strategic level something has to be done and whatever the politics of the current government you only have to read the press (and those more objective than the Daily Fail) to understand that the UK has to make changes along with most of the developed world and whichever party was in power they would have to doing something.

    I admire the passion of your post and although as I say I have never worked in the public sector I have had to make cuts both in my budget and in my team so have never been immune to the types of changes being experienced but I personally think that change HAS to happen and as we both know that is often a painful process for those involved.

    I have not taken the time (it’s very late) to research data on productivity, budgets, targets & the detailed changes so please forgive my direct comments and I hope you understand the spirit in which they are intended.

    One more thought, you said (either here or on Twitter) that you find it difficult to understand why public sector professionals (yourself included) are being marginalised or passed over for roles in the public sector. I think to a certain extent it’s the percieved difficulty in accepting the insecurity and shifting sands of private sector that makes some private sector employers wary of considering public sector professionals. Just a thought….


    • WillORNG November 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

      We have had neo-liberal governments embracing all major UK parties since 1975 when the Labour party capitulated to the IMF.

      We have also had a lame stream media denigrated to saying public bad private good, hence the de-regulation of the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) ‘industry’ and all sorts of privatisations telling us this would ‘create’ ‘wealth’ and increase productivity, all the while wages for ordinary people public and private have fallen behind labour productivity to the extent that ordinary people are due a 20-25% pay rise, profits have taken a growing share of national income from 13% to 21%, mostly going to the rich who’ve awarded themselves disproportionate increases in wages and large decreases in taxes, whilst uncompetitive oligopolies overcharge consumers for poor products and services. To cap it all when the Financialisation/house inflation bubble burst along with the lying liars fraudulent loans, the government bailed out these arch/crony ‘capitalists’ with public money then told us WE had to ‘pay’ the bill, even though our government creates money by spending it and taxes merely destroy or unprint spending power.

      The real divide isn’t public/private but the rich haves and the rest who have nots.

      When the private sector has debt flu at 160% of national income, it will take a decade of saving/de-leveraging at 10% a year cutting spending to pay off private debt, with the foreign sector wanting to net save 3% a year by net exporting to us more than we do to them, the only way for the national income accounts to add up is for the politicians to get out of the way and let government net spending do it’s job by running balancing deficits to fill the spending non-government saving gap at 13% a year FOR A WHOLE DECADE.

      THIS MONEY DOESN’T NEED TO BE BORROWED. It’s owned by rich people and pension companies and the £400 billion interest is a massive subsidy paid for with our public money. Net government spending/deficits create the money in the economy that the rich lend back to the government, the bigger the deficit, the more money there is to lend back to the government, but GET THIS; IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BORROW ANY MONEY FROM THE NON GOVERNMENT SECTOR.


    • Ian November 26, 2011 at 2:02 am #

      Well said, Masters. There is little that I can add at the moment other than to say I totally agree. I am working up some analysis of the last governments cynical and hypocritical management of public finances. Increasing the size of the State in the way they did is a valid choice for a Government, but to say you can have it all without any significant increase in taxation is approaching the level of fraud.

      Financial prudence? Whatever happened to thei dea of paying down your debts in the good times so that you can borrow in the bad. An honest and competant Government would have been able to make the case for higher taxation for improved services, but they just said that you can have all this and pay nothing.

      If we had paid (via taxes) rather than borrowed we would not be in quite the mess we’re in today


  3. mastersorbust November 25, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    For small edit….. in that last paragraph it should read “marginalised or passed over for roles in the private sector” – apologies, I blame lateness!


  4. Emma November 25, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Masterorbust you really miss the point this is not about public vs private sector this is about fairness for workers. You say things must change I agree but not with the changes that this government or to be honest the last government is trying to impose. Pensions for most workers have been eroded but for those at the top of the ladder busily pulling it up while vigorously shaking it so we all fall off, pensions are not a problem. We have wage cuts but they have wage increases and bonuses, we pay our taxes to fund the very much needed public sector, they avoid paying tax by any means possible. Most recently by buying their cronies into power.

    It is time that workers in the private sector stopped blaming those in the public sector for having pensions and started blaming their employers for them not having one.And by the way public sector workers do pay for their pensions.

    My mother has a pension she worked in a civil service department and gets £400 per month she pays rent and council tax because her pension takes her above the figure for state assistance. Her neighbour does not get a works pension she worked in jobs that did not provide a pension scheme. The state pays her rent and council tax, and gives her a bit more to bring her income up to a decent level. I do not blame her for her lack of pension but the employers she worked for. Nor do I begrudge her assistance but it seems to me we pay for it one way or the other.

    When we were small our parents taught us to share. It was a good thing to do, your toys, your sweets; if friends came over you shared what you had. Why is it good for children to share but not good for grown ups? There is enough in the world to share between us all there is no need for poverty and there is no need for obscene wealth. At the moment society has its priorities wrong. The 99% demand fairness and justice but not as it is given out by well mannered thugs.


    • mastersorbust November 25, 2011 at 10:38 am #

      Emma, thanks for your reply.

      I wasn’t making an argument for public vs private sector. The purpose behind my comment was to show that others have faced what you guys are facing now some time ago and whilst it’s tough it was demanded.

      Given your comment “this or the last government” I can’t see what you propose as an alternative? If you think this administration are wrong, what would you do differently?

      I didn’t suggest that public sector workers don’t pay for their pensions but I believe that employer contributions are significantly higher in the public sector than private but would need to check the data

      To your final paragraph, I for one am not one of those in the private sector earning huge bonus/pension etc but I think one of the challenges is most of the world is built on capatalism which encourages those that take risk/deliver results to reap rewards – I think the sharing model has been tried and didn’t work out too well 😉 Not saying what we have is right but what you suggest is a fairly significant change and I imagine won’t help your pension….


      • Nina November 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

        Whether you have experienced what public sector workers are experiencing depends entirely on where in the private sector you work, which companies you work for and what level of the organisation you work in. I’m heartily sick of the simplistic argument against striking “this happened to me so it’s your turn now” and I’ve never worked in the public sector. People’s experiences vary, that’s what working in the private sector means.


      • Steve Collington (@mcnazgul) November 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

        @paul – Well said. You speak for many with this.

        @mastersorbust – Really? As you couldn’t be bothered, let’s play follow the money.

        1. Public sector cuts are not a new idea. However the coalition’s timing and scale verges on insanity. This year, the public sector has lost 110,000 jobs. A lack of confidence in the private sector resulted in about a 40,000 job shortfall in the job market.

        That’s 40,000 more people on benefits and putting further strain on the public purse. Meanwhile job centre staff are being cut putting further strain on , adding to the strain on the system.

        If the country were UK plc, heads would roll.

        Meanwhile, the Prime Minister brought former Conservative Party employees into public sector posts while cutting others. Does that seem fair?

        2. You opine to Emma “…what would you do differently?”

        Here’s an idea that’s been well publicised yet the coalition haven’t yet grasped the nettle. How about collecting the £25 billion in uncollected taxes each year? UK plc wouldn’t say no to additional revenue, surely?

        Yet HMRC compliance officers, each bringing in over £600K revenue to the Crown are being cut by 11,000 this year. That’s a net loss of erm, £6.6 billion? One own goal is accidental, two might be carelessness.

        Then the deals done for Vodafone (£6bn off!) and Virgin who bought Northern Rock losing the taxpayer £400 million.

        Shareholders would respond to letting people off invoices and underselling assets in very strong terms. Yet UK plc remains quiet – .

        Here’s another widely publicised idea – implementation of a tax on certain financial transactions. This is being considered by Germany and other Eurozone partners.

        Yet the Prime Minister doesn’t like this. Incidentally he also wants to reduce safety checks required by law for supervising your children on November 30th.

        Exposing children to risk because he doesn’t like millions of people defending their legal rights. Is that fair?

        Having worked in both public and private sector, I can say overall I have encountered greater professionalism and integrity from the public sector. If not, may I recommend using courtesy rather than lazy thinking and a snide attitude? Always works for me.

        See you on November 30th then?


  5. Baskers November 25, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    You’ve captured what I feel so eloquently, far better than I could have said!

    This is not a race to the bottom on pensions. Why isn’t there a standard on pensions across all sectors? Where is the uproar from those sectors whose pension rights have already been eroded? Why aren’t they fighting for them?

    It is becoming completely clear & transparent that we are not “all in this together”.

    The public sector didn’t cause this economic mess, yet we seem to be paying for it. This is why I will be supporting my union (PCS) if they take strike action on November the 30th. I don’t like striking, I want to work, I want to deliver. But I cannot look the other way as my pension rights are eroded. A line has been drawn and here we will stand.


  6. Addy November 25, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Seems you’re angry about a lot of things and yet you don’t have any anger for the fact that this whole situation was caused by 13 years of financial mis-managemnt by the previous government…quite selective don’t you think?

    And you completely de-valued your argument by issuing the Do Not F+ck With Us threat the end


  7. Zoë Siobhan Baillie November 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Paul this is really, really brilliant, well said! Good luck on the day, I’ll be out too!


  8. paulcoxon81 November 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi all, thanks so much for your responses, my sincere apologies it’s taken me so long to reply. I posted this late last night and, perhaps naively, I hadn’t really expected this level of viewing or response from people. Thanks to all who have taken the time to read this and especially those who have commented. 🙂 Okay now my responses:

    @mastersorbust Rob, firstly, just want to reiterate the sentiments of my DM to you last night on Twitter, it would be a very dull world if we all agreed and I greatly appreciate your time in responding to this and giving me lots of things to think about. I created this blog in the hope of generating interesting discussions (I think I’d lose interest rather rapidly if everyone agreed with me all the time) and discussions are at their most interesting for me when there are well-argued and opposing opinions.

    You make some really interesting points that it’s hard to disagree with. I do think it’s quite easy, whichever sector you work in, to forget that the pain of cuts is largely being felt by all. I totally agree that something had to be done in the public sector and the situation from a financial point of view, so I’d never deny there was a need to make cuts, but I do feel the level of required savings have actually impacted and will continue to impact on the ability of the public sector to deliver core and essential services.

    I’m probably quite guilty of seeing this in terms of the affect on Social Care, which is the area of public sector work that I am closest too. Certainly there were, are and will be efficiencies to be made, but it’s important to maintain the high standards of support that we have been able to offer in the past. I worry that the depths of the cuts may seriously hinder this.

    You final point is something I hadn’t considered and may have some truth in it.

    @Baskers Sarah, that’s high-praise indeed coming from you, 🙂 thank you very much and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    and now…to feed the little troll:

    @Addy You’re welcome to attempt to troll my blog any time you want, but at least make it a bit sporting for me. You really will need a bit better than recycling the Conservative Party mantra of ‘it was the other lots fault’…isn’t that one wearing a bit thin now dear?

    Also your comment:

    ‘And you completely de-valued your argument by issuing the Do Not F+ck With Us threat the end’

    Did you actually read the first bit of that section, allow me to refresh your memory: ‘Channeling the immortal voice of Tyler Durden allow me to explain’…

    I’m sure you can forgive me a bit of artistic licence in how I chose to end a blog post on my blog? 😉


  9. Addy November 26, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Sorry didn’t realise i could only express an opinion if it was the same as yours….last time i looked we still has free speech in this country..you had your say and I had mine.


  10. RobbyB November 26, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I totally sympathise with anyone struggling at the moment.

    When I left school I did work experience at the council (wanted to be an engineer). They were busy at the time. The guy in charge told me how they were installing mini roundabouts and other traffic measures/sign-age anywhere they could to use up remaining budget before the end of the year; he openly admitted that they were not really needed. The justification given was that if they didn’t spend all the money given to them then the budget would be cut for next year. I remember thinking at the time what a waste of money. I said to the guy isn’t that a waste; he laughed and said some thing along the lines of “jobs for the boys”. They were knowingly wasting public money!!

    Now the pot is bust. If only it had been run properly!! Too late!!

    Its not the fault of the firemen, nurses etc etc. Its those PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS in management and charge of the finances that people hate.


  11. RobbyB January 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    “The public sector didn’t cause this economic mess, yet we seem to be paying for it.”


    Lets all strike for our right to retire at 40, on a generous pension. If its good enough for the Greeks its good enough for us. Who cares if our grand kids have to pay for it, let them eat cake. ??


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