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Osgerby: Austerity and the public sector

BY PAUL OSGERBY | OCTOBER 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Osgerby is studying abroad at City University in London.

In the past several years, the UK’s public sector has initiated recurring conversations over pay and austerity. This week, the efforts have culminated into numerous protests and strikes across major cities in the UK.

It began last Monday with the National Health Service staging a four-hour strike involving more than 400,000 employees of its approximately 1.3 million staff. The protest disrupted mostly outpatient and more routine clinical appointments, as emergency services were not.

The dispute began when ministers revealed that the Health Service would receive a pay rise of 1 percent, which after rules and regulations applied to only half of the staff. Unions described the increase as “appalling,” while independent pay review boards said the increase should go to all staff workers.

A work-to-rule action began for the remainder of the week to cause slowdowns in operation.

In response, the government said an across-the-board increase would be unaffordable. This is the same government that has been accused by citizens of self-involved overspending, forcing cuts to wages in public services.

As an American foreign to truly publicized health care, it seems entirely justified to fight for competitive pay rates.

Protests gained a wider scope on Oct. 18, though. Tens of thousands of public sector employees, including nurses and teachers, gathered in the streets London, Glasgow, and Belfast. The Trade Union Congress organized the event to voice opposition against a below-inflation 1 percent pay raise.

There appears to be a fear that wage and workforce cuts will continue, and for citizens, this should be a concern about quality of life as well.

The Health Service faces a £30 billion deficit by 2020. As a result, government resources are stretched thin now.

Americans seem to intrinsically fear socialized health care. It’s approached as a ghastly thought. Perhaps this was instilled via McCarthyism or the Cold War decades of our government attempting to install capitalism in puppet governments.

I know that I am extremely distrustful of the federal government and its “responsible” spending, but is it not a basic human right to affordable and available treatment?

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative say “access to health care must be universal” and “guaranteed for all on an equitable basis.”

Historically, the U.S. government tries to superimpose its capitalist agenda, appealing through populist rhetoric. I fail to see how paying additional expenses to the private sector appeals to popular demand for health care.

Where does the line draw between an individual human’s right and the free-market enterprise?

The financial crisis of the National Health Service may be an economic case point for privatization of health care, but to me, it lacks the impartial, and more important, social issue at hand. A human being’s right to wellness sounds more like “the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” than an ideology.

Joseph Hoover, an American expatriate and professor of international politics at City University London, said, “I’ve lived here for 10 years now, and I can’t imagine life without the [National Health Service].”


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