26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Action threated after Budget pay curbs

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United Kingdom public sector unions have reacted with fury after the Government announced that pay increases across the Public Service would be pegged at an average of two per cent for the year ahead, despite surging inflation.

In a written statement, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Heather Wheeler said public sector employers would “have freedom to pay average awards up to two per cent, plus up to an extra percentage point in some cases”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak lifted a freeze on public sector pay last year, but the fresh limit suggests the Treasury remains reluctant to loosen the purse strings.

By contrast, the latest official figures showed average pay across the economy was increasing at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent.

Public sector unions had been calling for increases of up to 10 per cent.

General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, Mark Serwotka said the offer was, in effect, a pay cut because of rising inflation.

He predicted industrial action could follow.

Deputy General Secretary of the Prospect union, Garry Graham said with inflation rocketing, a national insurance increase coming in and energy prices going through the roof “this pay remit guidance means yet another crippling real-terms pay cut for Civil Servants”.

“Once again the Government is using Civil Service pay as a political football and attempting to balance the books by penalising the people who have delivered so much through the twin challenges of Brexit and COVID,” Mr Graham (pictured) said.

General Secretary of the FDA, the union for senior Public Servants, Dave Penman said the Government had decided to abandon its own workforce.

“Ministers are running around with their fingers in their ears trying to pretend it’s business as usual,” Mr Penman said.

Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank, Paul Johnson suggested that with Public Service pay already having been hit by a decade of real-terms cuts, the Government was “testing the limits of employee patience and of the labour market”.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Sunak said he did not mind being unpopular because he was doing the right thing for the economy.

London, 2 April 2022

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