Union say below-inflation increases ‘kick in the teeth’ for Britain’s key workers
Millions of public sector workers have been awarded pay hikes of between 4 and 5 per cent – prompting unions to prepare for strike action this autumn as chiefs lashed out at the below-inflation increases.
About 2.5 million staff across Britain will soon see a hike in their pay packets after the government accepted “fair and sustainable” increases recommended by state review bodies.
But unions warned that they would ballot members on industrial action, pointing out that the “kick in the teeth” settlements will not keep pace with soaring inflation – currently running at 9.1 per cent.
Most full-time nurses in the NHS will only get a pay rise worth 4 per cent, an increase in basic salary of around £1,400, though new nursing staff will see starting pay increase 5.5 per cent to £27,055.
The vast majority of teachers will get a 5 per cent increase, with an increase of up to 8.9 per cent for new teachers as part of a promised recruitment drive.
And police officers will get a 5 per cent pay rise – an annual salary uplift of around £1,900 – after home secretary Priti Patel accepted all recommendations of the pay review body.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the government had delivered a “kick in the teeth” after promise rewards for dedication shown during the pandemic.
“The so-called wage offer amounts to a massive national pay cut – we expected the inevitable betrayal but the scale of it is an affront,” she said, before warning that Unite would back “all and every action” members wish to take.
The GMB union, representing hundreds of thousands of health workers, said members would now be balloted on industrial action. “They deserve so much better than this,” said the union’s Laurence Turner.
“GMB will now ballot our members on the offer … everyone has their breaking point, and without a fundamental change we will not be able to deliver the public services the country needs,” he added.
Eligible doctors and dentists will see a 4.5 per cent increase, according to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), while the lowest earners in the health service will receive a boost of up to 9.3 per cent.
The National Education Union (NEU) condemned the “very poor pay proposal” of 5 per cent for teachers, and said members would be consulted in the autumn on strike action.
“We will have no hesitation in recommending that our members take action,” said the Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretary.
“Teachers don’t want to strike – they want to be in the classroom teaching our pupils. But we cannot stand by and watch the biggest real-terms decline in teacher pay this century,” he added.
Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “If the government hopes that teachers’ anger will dissipate over the course of the summer break, they are wrong.”
Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke told a meeting of Boris Johnson’s cabinet earlier on Tuesday that a “fair and sustainable” pay rise had been agreed for public sector workers.
But MPs were warned on Tuesday that hospital staff and prison workers are now quitting for less stressful and sometimes better paid jobs at supermarkets amid the cost of living crisis.
David Fry – director of the group that advises on what public workers should be paid – said the review body setting prison workers’ pay had heard reports of staff leaving to become delivery drivers.
His comments were echoed by Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady, who said soome porters and cleaners at NHS hospitals were also quitting.
The TUC leader added: “They’ve been through a lot personally, emotionally, mentally, and if they can get a job in a supermarket that is not as emotionally demanding and very often on better pay, why not?”
Ms O’Grady also took aim at comments from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, and others, that increasing workers’ pay will push up inflation.
The TUC chief referred to new data showing a 3.7 per cent drop in real wages in the three months to May – the worst fall since records began in 2001.
“The real challenge we face is how on earth we improve people’s pay packets in order that people can have decent living standards, bring up their families, but also pay their taxes that fund our public services,” Ms O’Grady added.
She added: “I would strongly advise anybody on more than half a million a year not to be lecturing low-paid workers on what they’re entitled to.”