CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond yesterday refused to deny that he said at last Tuesday’s Tory Cabinet meeting that public sector workers are ‘overpaid’.
Hammond was repeatedly asked on the BBC Andrew Marr Show but became more and more evasive. Hammond said: ‘This is a relative question. This is about the relationship between public and private sector pay and it is a simple fact, independent figures show this, that public sector workers on average are paid about 10% more than private sector workers. We have to bear that in mind.
‘Relative to private sector workers they are paid about a 10% premium’ once pensions were taken into account. Pressed on whether he had used the word ‘overpaid’, he said: ‘I have told you, I am not going to talk about what comes out of a private Cabinet meeting.’
However, Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said yesterday that public sector workers will get a pay rise that ‘will certainly match inflation’ under a Labour government’. He added that ‘it will be set by the (pay) review bodies’ and ‘we’ll try and compensate for some of the losses over the past seven years’.
‘Unlike the government which has set a pay cap the review bodies have to follow, it will be up to the review bodies to make recommendations that we will adhere to.’ He was asked by Andrew Marr: ‘Don’t you think public sector workers deserve a bit more than inflation, and actually deserve a pay rise?’
McDonnell replied: ‘I think they do but that will be up to the review bodies. What we won’t be doing is what this government has done, actually write to the review bodies and say you can only go up by 1%, which effectively means a pay cut for most people.’ He further pledged: ‘We will make sure people get a fair pay rise – they won’t get a cut in relation to inflation.’
Later in the interview McDonnell said: ‘You see what the Chancellor Phillip Hammond said in cabinet about low pay, how public sector workers are overpaid. I was at Bart’s hospital yesterday with the cleaners who are now on strike.’ (See page 6)
‘Why are they on strike – because they asked for 30p and hour extra and were rufused it. One of the cleaners gave me a pay slip. This woman, full-time worker, earns £297 a week. At the moment the median rate in London is nearly £1,500. To buy a house in London is half a million pounds.’ Handing Marr the pay slip, McDonnell said: ‘Ask Philip Hammond if he can live on that?’
• Hammond, meanwhile, called comments made by McDonnell about the Grenfell fire tragedy ‘disgraceful’. The Shadow Chancellor told Marr he stood by his claim that victims of the disaster in west London were ‘murdered by political decisions’. He said ‘social murder’ had occurred and ‘people should be accountable’.
Hammond claimed there was ‘not a shred of evidence to support that accusation’. At least 80 people are believed to have been killed in the tower block fire in north Kensington on 14th June.
Asked if the politicians who sanctioned cuts were murderers, McDonnell said he did not ‘resile’ from that view.
He said: ‘There’s a long history in this country of the concept of social murder where decisions are made with no regard to consequences, and as a result of that people have suffered. That’s what’s happened here, and I’m angry.’