THE GMB and PCS unions came out against Prime Minister Brown and Chancellor Darling’s plan to impose three-year pay settlements on public sector workers yesterday.
While TUC General Secretary Barber and some other union leaders said they had nothing against the plan, the GMB and PCS flatly rejected the idea.
Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Service said: ‘The government has reneged on most recent pay review body awards and who’s to say they would honour a three-year deal? Their track record says otherwise.’
GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said it amounted to a crude cap on public sector pay: ‘Can you tell me what the price is going to be of your litre of petrol in two years’ time? Because I can’t predict that and yet what the government seem to want to tie us into, is a deal which will come at the bottom of the cycle.’
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘We suspect that these proposals are about driving down the pay of hard-working staff who deliver the everyday things we take for granted.’
He added: ‘It is completely unacceptable that the government should play with real people’s lives on the false pretence of curbing inflation.’
However, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘There are no objections in principle to the idea of longer term deals, but public servants will be asking where’s the beef?’
UNISON told News Line: ‘We have nothing in principle against three-year pay deals, as long as they are not used to introduce below inflation pay increases.
‘But the crucial point is what money is on offer, we would not be prepared to accept a pay cut and if inflation took off we must have the right to reopen negotiations.’
Royal College of Nursing General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: ‘If we were to sign up to a long-term pay settlement in today’s volatile economy, we must have a mechanism that will protect the living standards of nurses from any future rises in inflation.’
Construction union UCATT General Secretary Alan Ritchie said: ‘UCATT is not in principle opposed to multi-year pay settlement, they are commonplace in the private sector construction industry. However as with all pay negotiations the critical factor is what money is on the table.
‘UCATT will not agree to any offer which is not in the best interests of our members.’
At his monthly media conference, Brown said the measure was necessary to maintain long-term economic stability.
He said staging public sector pay awards last year had ‘helped break the back of inflation in Britain in 2007’.
He continued: ‘Now in 2008, we have to show that we can maintain stability over the long term.
‘To send out the best possible message about long-term inflation and about stability and to be fair to public sector workers, one way forward is a move towards long-term public sector pay settlements.’
Brown said: ‘The whole purpose of this is keeping inflation under control.’
LibDem Deputy leader Vincent Cable said Labour would be wise to remember ‘the winter of discontent’.