'Path to pay justice'

TUC Congress 2023: Unite delegate David Agbley highlights the pitfalls of pay review bodies

Reading time: 3 min

Unite delegate David Agbley spoke in support of a composite on pay review bodies at TUC Congress on Sunday (September 10).

David told Congress that “over the last 12 months the mask has slipped and the failure of pay review bodies has been exposed”.

He highlighted “the fallacy that public sector pay can be depoliticised in the face of government interference” as well as “the illusion that this government is motived by evidence, not ideology”.

David noted too that pay review bodies have exposed “the falsehood that industrial peace can be possible in the teeth of this crisis”.

He went on to criticise pay review bodies as “long past their sell-by date”.

“They are clearly no longer independent of government, and they have no real power to make major decisions,” David said. “What is their purpose at this point if not complicity in holding down pay?”

Dave raised the exampled of the NHS pay review body.

“The pay body chair is handpicked by the Prime Minister and the seven members are chosen by the health minister,” he pointed out. “Not content with selecting the line up, the government rigs the rules by setting strict levels that the body must base its decision on before the process has even kicked off.

“All this amounts to nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the government’s responsibility for the pay crisis which has engulfed our health service,” David pointed out.

“These bodies have presided over and given cover to over a decade of real wage cuts across the public sector.”

He asked Congress why would trade unions “not want to negotiate directly with the real decision maker”.

“Rather than being shackled to a façade, members across our unions have brought the government to the bargaining table directly through collective action,” he continued, adding, “That is the path to pay justice”.

David went on to highlight Unite’s position on the composite, noting that “if pay review bodies were genuinely independent and proven to work then we are open to that”.

Urging Congress to support the composite, he concluded, “But as they exist right now, these bodies are a barrier to be removed so our members can win the pay they deserve.”

The composite was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Photo by Mark Thomas