PUBLIC SECTOR employees, many of whom are essential Covid-19 workers, should not be subject to a continuing pay freeze from a government that has not learnt the lessons of austerity, Unite, the union, said yesterday.
Unite was responding to the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) which said a freeze on public sector pay for the next three years could save £23 billion.
It is feared that the think tank is acting as an outrider for chancellor Rishi Sunak as he prepares to unveil the public spending review next week.
Unite contrasted the government’s past priorities of holding down the pay of nurses, teachers and local government workers, while, according to the National Audit Office, more than half of the £18bn spent on pandemic-related contracts was awarded without competitive tender, with firms recommended by MPs being fast-tracked.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘For the last nine months of the pandemic, public sector workers have kept the NHS running, the schools open and refuse being collected – these are the very same workers who have had their pay held down in real terms during a decade of Tory austerity.
‘It should not be forgotten that more than an estimated 600 NHS and social care workers, often on low pay, have died from causes linked to Covid-19.
‘Now the Centre for Policy Studies has the nerve to suggest that the public sector workforce should again bear the brunt of a three-year pay freeze, at a time when it has been revealed that ministers have been casual in the extreme over their stewardship of the public purse in how PPE contracts have been awarded.
‘We suspect that the CPS is being used as an outrider to pave the way for Rishi Sunak’s statement on public spending next week. The CPS’ analysis is insulting to those public sector workers that have underpinned the fabric of society during this continuing pandemic …
‘If Boris Johnson’s much-vaunted “levelling up” agenda means anything, he should be telling Rishi Sunak to loosen the purse strings on public sector pay for those workers, many of whom have lost up to £3,000-a-year in real terms during the austerity decade.
‘We call for a generous financial settlement for the more than five million employees in the public sector and we know that such pay increases will be spent in the local economies boosting the hospitality sector and the country’s beleaguered high streets once the national lockdown restrictions are eased next month.’
- News of a public sector pay freeze is a ‘kick in the teeth’ for millions of public sector workers on the frontline of the Covid-19 response, says the GMB union
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘We will not stand by and allow public sector workers to pay for this crisis with new austerity and a morale-sapping wage freeze. This is a kick in the teeth for those who have been fighting the pandemic.
‘Workers have lost friends and loved ones. The crisis is still raging. Now they’re being kicked while they’re down …
‘On the very day we discover the government is planning a pay freeze for millions of workers, GMB is gearing up to lodge a judicial review against the government decision to swindle public sector workers of their pensions should they leave their employment due to redundancy.’
- PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘Civil servants along with millions of other public sector workers have kept the country running throughout this pandemic and the last thing they deserve is another pay freeze.
‘Our members have been providing Universal Credit, collecting tax, securing our borders and prisons in this unprecedented pandemic and have already suffered 10 years of pay restraint.
‘Private companies have been allowed to secure lucrative Covid contracts to the tune of £17bn, yet ministers are not prepared to reward their own staff for all the incredible work they have done this year.
‘If Rishi Sunak fails to pay public sector workers properly, there will be widespread anger and industrial action cannot be ruled out.’
- Kevin Courtney, General Secretary National Education Union, said: ‘If Rishi Sunak does end up saying to school staff that their pay will be held down, then it is entirely the wrong moment to say it. This is not levelling up, but levelling down.’
- Commenting on the upcoming spending review, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘Nursing staff across the whole of the health and care system, from hospitals to social care, have gone above and beyond in the last year and all we have heard from the Chancellor is the sound of clapping in Downing Street.
‘Now he must make good on this applause and give nursing staff the pay that finally recognises their skill, dedication and professionalism.’
- Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘It’s brutally unfair to leave key workers to wade through the media rumour mill for answers about their livelihoods. Further attacks on pay would show utter contempt for working people. Rishi Sunak needs to come out and reject those calling for public sector pay restraint.’
There was no statement from the TUC, which has given major support to the Tory government.
Secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance Dave Wiltshire told News Line: ‘There must be an immediate meeting of the General Council of the TUC.
‘Any attempt to impose a wage freeze on workers must be met with a general strike to bring down the Johnson government and bring in a workers government and socialism.’