£9,000 pinched from public sector pay packets since 2010 says Unison

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The lead banner on the July 1st 300,000-strong demo to get the Tories out
The lead banner on the July 1st 300,000-strong demo to get the Tories out

‘FACING 10 years of pay cuts in real terms, our vital public sector workers – nurses, midwives and refuse collectors – have had an average of £9,000 pinched from their pay packets since 2010,’ Unison said on Monday.

‘And they face losing £4,000 more in the next three years,’ the UK’s biggest public sector union added. Unison joined a chorus of anger from all the public sector unions, as well as the TUC, in response to Tory Chancellor Hammond’s leaked claim to cabinet over the weekend that public sector workers are overpaid.

Unison pointed out that since 2010 public sector workers’ wages have been frozen, or have increased below inflation, which means their cost of living is rising faster than their pay, leaving them out of pocket. The average public sector worker has lost £8,953 in real terms since 2010, and with the government planning to pursue this pay freeze policy until 2020 they stand to lose £4,073 more (a total of just over £13,000!)

‘This year we’re campaigning to end the public sector pay pinch,’ said Unison. The financial crash wasn’t caused by teaching assistants, council officers or hospital porters. And it’s outrageous that they are still expected to pay the price for the banking crisis over a decade later. What’s more, real terms cuts to public sector pay aren’t just failing our members. They’re failing everyone who relies on our vital public services.’

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘The Chancellor’s remarks show he is completely out of touch. After seven years of a punishing pay cap, all public sector employees need a pay rise. The care worker hurrying from house to house doesn’t feel overpaid, nor does the hospital cleaner working round the clock, or the teaching assistant going the extra mile for the children she supports.

‘They are all low paid, all vital, and all in need of a pay rise now. The Chancellor’s remarks are nothing short of offensive. The Conservatives saw the cost of attacking public services in last month’s election. But far from learning their lessons, they now risk repeating them – and adding insult to injury.’

The GMB public sector union condemned Hammond’s ‘arrogant contempt’ , saying that the Sunday Times had reported ‘five sources’ confirming he had used the words during the Cabinet meeting last week.

Tory government policy is to impose a 1% cap on public sector pay until 2020, continuing the wage freezes and caps that have been in place since 2010, says the GMB. GMB analysis also shows the average full-time public sector worker has lost £8,953 in real terms since 2010, and they face a further £4,073 in cuts by 2020 – over £13,000 in total.

Public opinion polling for GMB by Survation shows two thirds believe cuts to public services have gone too far, and 75% believe public sector workers deserve a pay rise this year. The GMB has launched a campaign to End the Public Sector Pay Pinch.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘Philip Hammond has displayed arrogant contempt for public sector workers with his foolish and insulting comments. He is too removed from the reality of daily life to see the impact of seven years of pay pinching on ambulance workers, nurses and teaching assistants.

‘He should try and live on a public sector worker’s wage for a week to understand the struggle to make ends meet so many are facing as the cost of living rises. The truth is that the multi-millionaire Chancellor is out of touch with public opinion. Two thirds believe cuts to public services have gone too far and three quarters want to see a pay rise for public sector workers this year. It’s time to end the public sector pay pinch.’

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union said: ‘Yet another government minister seeks to promulgate misleading information in an attempt to mask the government’s shameful record on public sector pay and the adverse impact of the unnecessary pay cap on workers delivering vital services to the public.

‘Only two weeks ago the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was making equally misleading claims in Parliament about teachers’ pay. The NASUWT has written to her requesting that her statements be corrected. The Treasury is clinging to the wreckage of a policy which has driven education and many other public services to crisis point and vainly hoping the public won’t notice.’

The TUC on Monday highlighted the adverse effects of the public sector pay cap on workers and services. Prison officers, paramedics and NHS dieticians are all down over £3,800 a year. irefighters are down nearly £2,900, while nuclear engineers and teachers are down approximately £2,500.

Lifeguards’ real pay is £2,200 lower than 2010, while crown prosecutors have seen a pay fall of £4,400. Workers across the public sector have seen their real pay fall for seven consecutive years, as the result of artificial government pay restrictions. A post-election poll by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) showed that 76% of voters want to give public sector workers a pay rise – including 68% of Conservative voters.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It’s been seven long years of pay cuts for our public servants. And ministers still won’t tell us if relief is on the way. Recent months have shown how brave and dedicated the people in our public services are. It’s time to give all of our hardworking public servants the pay rise they’ve earned.’

Firefighters, teachers and other public sector workers are thousands of pounds a year worse off than they were in 2010, the TUC added. With inflation outpacing the government’s 1% limit on pay rises for state employees, real wages are being eroded, said the trades union body. It said prison officers and paramedics were more than £3,800 a year poorer.

However, the chancellor has said state sector workers get a 10% ‘premium’ over private sector counterparts. The government has come under pressure since the election in June to alter its policy of limiting pay rises in the public sector. It’s been seven long years of pay cuts for our public servants. And ministers still won’t tell us if relief is on the way,’ O’Grady said.

Inflation measured by the most commonly used method, CPI, which does not take housing costs into account, has picked up in recent months hitting 2.9% in May. According to the Bank of England it averaged 2.7% a year between 2010 and 2016.

The TUC calculates that if firefighters’ wages had kept pace with inflation their average pay would be nearly £2,900 higher than it is. For nuclear engineers and teachers the figure is about £2,500. On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Chancellor Hammond said public sector pay had ‘raced ahead’ of the private sector after the economic crash in 2008.

He added that when ‘very generous’ public sector pension contributions are taken into account, public sector workers enjoy a 10% ‘premium’ over their private sector counterparts. But Hammond refused to comment on reports he had said at a meeting that public servants are ‘overpaid’. The average pay for an NHS paramedic is £35,577. But if the paramedics’ salary in 2010 had kept pace with inflation measured by CPI, by now he or she should be earning £39,435 – £3,888 more, says the TUC.

• ASLEF HITS BACK AT HAMMOND

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has also hit back at Hammond’s ‘ignorant and ill-informed’ comments. On the Andrew Marr show, Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had said: ‘I’m not going to get into what was and wasn’t said in a cabinet meeting but I’ve got two daughters in their early twenties, both high achievers, I don’t think like that, I wouldn’t make a remark like that.

‘It is a disgrace that 95% of train drivers are men. There is no reason that workforce shouldn’t be more gender balanced, except that the unions control the recruitment and training process. In the context of the discussion about industrial relations on the railways, I think it’s very important to focus on that control that the unions have over the training process.’

Whelan responded: ‘I know Philip Hammond – condemned on the front page of one national newspaper today as “Hammond the Hypocrite” – is an out of touch minister in an out of touch government but, really, this is ridiculous!

‘For twenty years ASLEF has been at the forefront of pushing for diversity in our industry. We have run campaigns to encourage more women to become train drivers, we have a women’s section in our union, and a dedicated official at head office lobbying the train companies every day.

‘But the truth is that we can only recruit as members the people the privatised train and freight operating companies choose to recruit as drivers. The train companies, not the trade unions, control the recruitment process. And they have been very slow to listen to what we say and join the 21st century world of work.

‘And he (Hammond) appears to have conveniently forgotten that, in 2011, when he was Transport Secretary, we wrote and asked for the public sector duties of the Equality Act to apply to train companies and Theresa Villiers, the then Transport Minister, wrote back and said “No” – on his watch!

‘Philip Hammond wallows in his own little world but it is, frankly, shameful that he doesn’t know more before he opens his mouth. His ignorant and ill-informed comments do nothing to help this industry, or his government. But, remember, when he was Secretary of State for Transport, he described the railways as “a rich man’s toy”.’