Public sector workers still confident of pay increase

22 Dec 09
More than half of public sector workers believe they will receive a pay rise similar to that of 2009, a survey released today shows
By Jaimie Kaffash

22 December 2009

More than half of public sector workers believe they will receive a pay rise similar to that of 2009, a survey released today shows.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study says that  57% of public sector staff are confident of a salary increase comparable to that of last year, which averaged 2%.  This is despite Chancellor Alastair Darling’s Pre-Budget Report, which capped public sector pay rises at 1% from 2011.

A similar proportion of private sector workers believed that they would receive the same or higher increases than last year. The CIPD attributed this to the fact that 58% of workers in the private sector received no pay rise or even a pay cut, compared with 19% in the public sector. However, in contrast to their public sector counterparts, private sector workers are expecting a rise of 3% in 2010.

Charles Cotton, CIPD rewards adviser, said: ‘Public sector workers are clearly not sensing that the pay storm clouds are gathering. It looks like 2010 will prove to be the last hurrah of this gilded age.’

He told Public Finance that this ‘gilded age’ extended to those at the lower end of the pay scale, as well as public sector leaders. ‘A lot of the people at the bottom have had significant salary increases for a number of reasons – recruitment issues, modernisation of pay structures in health, local government and universities, for example. That has led to significant growth for these individuals as well as at the other end of the pay scale,’ he said.

He added that pay should be linked to ‘how much you contribute to your organisation rather than how long you have been there’.

But a spokeswoman for Unison, which represents 1.3 million public sector workers, told Public Finance that these figures were slightly misleading. She said that health workers were two years into a three-year pay agreement that guaranteed them a 2.5% rise. She added that the union had submitted a 2.5% claim for local government that ‘we know is affordable’.

‘Many people will see it as a small way to gain back some of the monies they have lost from below-inflation pay rises they have received in the past few years as well as the 1% figure stated in the Pre-Budget Report,’ she said.

Alex Flynn, communications officer at the Public and Commercial Services union, refuted Cotton’s suggestions. ‘There has never been any “hurrah” or a “gilded age” for any of our members working on the front line in tackling the recession, in getting people back into work, or those working on border controls. Typically, pay rises last year were in the region of 1.5%,’ he told PF.

He added that the 1% cap on pay rises will ‘effectively result in pay cuts. In addition to the National Insurance rise, it will hit people.’

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