Millions of public sector workers denied pay rise

Care, local authority workers and most NHS staff left out of pay award despite working through pandemic

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Millions of workers have been left out of the latest public sector pay increase announced today (July 21), which is to cover only about 900,000 workers, or 20 per cent of the public sector workforce.

Unite has welcomed the news that doctors, dentists, police, teachers and some other public sector workers are set to receive an inflation-busting pay rise, but highlighted the fact that the increase is nowhere near enough to make up for a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

The union also noted that so many essential public sector workers, particularly care and local authority workers, who have worked flat out during the coronavirus pandemic and have risked their lives to help others are being denied a decent pay rise.

Announcing the pay rise on Tuesday (July 21), the Treasury noted that the increase would come out of existing departmental budgets, meaning it will not be funded by new money and cuts to already cash-strapped departments will have to be made elsewhere.

The largest pay increases will go to teachers in England, who are set to receive a 3.1 per cent pay rise, while doctors and dentists across the UK are to receive a 2.8 per cent pay rise.

Police, prison officers and National Crime Agency staff in England and Wales will receive a 2.5 per cent pay increase, while armed forces staff will see their pay rise by 2 per cent, as will judiciary and senior civil servants across the UK.

The pay rise will be backdated from April.

But the majority of public sector workers have been left out of the latest pay deal, including nurses, midwives, hospital porters and other NHS staff. These staff negotiated a three-year pay deal in 2018 worth on average 6.5 per cent, but this deal is set to expire in April next year. While the Treasury said it will review this pay deal, no dates have yet been set.

Meanwhile, health workers in France last week agreed to a pay deal that will see their pay rise on average by €183 a month. The pay award is a worth a total €8bn, or £7.2bn.

Care workers in the UK, who have been at the very frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, have also been denied a pay rise, with many of them paid through private firms.

Another significant portion of the public sector workforce – local authority workers – have also failed to be granted a decent pay rise.

These include a range of workers who have worked throughout the pandemic, including refuse workers, care workers, school staff and cemetery workers, among others, who are paid by local authorities and whose pay is negotiated between the Local Government Association (LGA), which is the local authorities’ employers’ body, and local authority unions.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds highlighted the shortcomings of the latest public sector pay award.

“The Conservatives froze public sector pay for seven long years, and the rises they introduced after that failed to plug the gap,” she said.

“A pay rise for our police, nurses and teachers now is good news, but for many frontline workers it still won’t make up for a decade of real terms pay cuts.

“And many other public sector workers – including those working on the front line in social care – won’t get a pay rise out of this at all because the Tories haven’t made good on their promises to boost local authority funding,” she added.

“That’s not fair – and it’s no way to reward those who’ve been at the forefront of fighting this pandemic.”

The latest pay rise announcement comes amid a Unite campaign called #WorthMore, which is calling on the LGA to improve this year’s proposed pay rise which is worth on average just £1.83 a day for the lowest paid and follows a decades of below inflation pay rises.

As part of the campaign, Unite has drawn up a pledge signed by hundreds of councillors calling on the LGA to improve their pay offer.

The union is also now holding a consultative ballot of its 100,000 council workers to see if they wish to reject or accept the local government employers’ pay offer now on the table. The ballot closes on August 14.

Commenting on today’s pay rise for some public sector workers, Unite national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said, “What the chancellor has announced for 900,000 public sector employees is a step in the right direction and a recognition of the vital role they have played in the fight against coronavirus.

 “But the chancellor has a selective memory when it comes to finding cash for local government employers to pay their workers a decent pay rise – they are the forgotten army of public service,” he added.

 “Council  workers – including schools, refuse collection, cemeteries, child protection, and the care of our elderly and vulnerable – have been working throughout the pandemic. They are the glue that keeps services for local communities running on a daily basis through good times and bad.

 “However, currently the employers are offering their staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a derisory and insulting £1.83p a day – and this has to be seen in the context of a decade of attacks on pay and conditions that has resulted in a 20 per cent cut in pay in real terms in local government over the last 10 years,” Kennedy went on to say.

 “We know the public is appreciative and supportive of our frontline workforce. Unfortunately, neither Rishi Sunak nor the local government employers are mirroring public opinion.

 “If the government is serious about ‘levelling up’ society, the chancellor needs to find the money to fund a decent pay rise for council workers.”

You can find out more about Unite’s #WorthMore campaign for local authority workers here.

By Hajera Blagg

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