When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday (September 27) in his conference speech that Labour is now “the political mainstream” he was clearly on to something.
The public sector pay cap – now having been in place for seven years, choking the living standards of workers carrying out vital services we all rely on – was once considered necessary.
Pay restraint, as successive Tory-led governments have dressed up the cap, was a sacrifice required of all public servants, so the thinking went.
Fast forward seven years and Labour’s plan to lift the cap – for all public sector workers – and give them the pay rise they deserve has become an almost universally championed idea across the political spectrum.
The level of consensus over this, specifically for NHS workers, was most recently revealed in a new ComRes survey of more than 2,000 people which found that a full 84 per cent supported scrapping the cap.
Nearly just as many – 83 per cent – agreed that health service staff should get a pay rise in line with the RPI measure of inflation, which now stands at 3.9 per cent and is the pay rise that NHS unions including Unite have called for.
The unions have also requested a further £800 payment to partially restore their lost wages under several years of the pay cap. This too, a significant portion of the public agrees with – 69 per cent.
The public also strongly supports more funding being made available to the NHS so that its pay review body is able to give health workers a pay rise above 1 per cent, with 77 per cent agreeing on the need for additional funding.
Jeremy Corbyn highlighted yesterday (September 27) in his conference speech that not only has the pay cap made public sector workers suffer, with many thousands barely being able to make ends meet, but it’s also contributed to a mounting recruitment and retention crisis, in effect causing our crumbling, austerity-striken public services to further deteriorate.
“Year after year the Tories have cut budgets and squeezed public sector pay, while cutting taxes for the highest earners and the big corporations,” Corbyn said.
“You can’t care for the nation’s health when doctors and nurses are being asked to accept falling living standards year after year.
“You can’t educate our children properly in ever larger class sizes with more teachers than ever leaving the profession.
“You can’t protect the public on the cheap.
“Scrapping the public sector pay squeeze isn’t an act of charity – it is a necessity to keep our public services fully staffed and strong,” he noted.
The Labour leader showed he has the finger on the pulse of the nation – the ComRes survey reflected this exact same sentiment, with a majority of the public (77 per cent) saying they thought that low pay was one of the reasons for many staff leaving the NHS.
A similar proportion (74 per cent) thought that low pay was also a factor in young people not choosing careers in the NHS.
Unite head of health Sara Carpenter said that “Unite knows how much the NHS is valued and respected, and the results of this survey prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“We need a fully funded NHS, and our NHS staff need a fully funded, decent pay rise,” she added. “How long will it take for this government to take responsibility for the mess it has created and start to put it right? It’s about respect – for staff, for patients, for people – and so far we have seen none.”