Unions condemn 'war on public servants'

24 Jun 10
Unions have said that the two-year public sector pay freeze and review of senior salaries amount to a 'war' on public servants
By Jaimie Kaffash

24 June 2010

Unions have said that the two-year public sector pay freeze and review of senior salaries amount to a ‘war’ on public servants.  

Chancellor George Osborne announced the freeze in the Budget. It will apply to all public sector workers earning more than £21,000 a year. Employees earning less than this will receive a £250 flat-rate increase in each year.

Osborne also confirmed that the economist Will Hutton will lead a pay review to ensure that the top salaries in public organisations are no more than 20 times higher than the lowest.  

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, reacted angrily to the announcement. ‘This Budget signals that the battle for Britain’s public services has begun, with the government declaring war,’ he said. ‘Public sector workers will be shocked and angry that they are the innocent victims of job cuts and pay freezes.’

A spokesman for the Public & Commercial Services union told Public Finance it was an ‘attack on public sector workers’. He added it was ‘incorrect to call this a pay freeze – taking into account the benefits cuts and inflation, this is a real-terms pay cut’.
He added that the £250 flat-rate rise was ‘meagre’.

Teaching unions also attacked the Budget. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, ‘deplored’ the pay freeze, adding it ‘will do nothing for recruitment and retention’.
Martin Freedman, head of pay at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, called the freeze ‘excessive’.

Meanwhile, Hutton told PF that it was the right time to impose the 20 times pay differential to ensure it does not become more common.   

He added: ‘This review is putting a marker down, asking what is the proper relationship between top and bottom and to what extent could it contribute to a new social norm in the private sector. This was high on the prime minister’s thinking when he asked me to do this.’

The PCS said the review would ‘make no difference in the civil service’. He said that the lowest paid employee in the Department for Work and Pensions earns £13,000, compared with £250,000 for the top director, a salary differential below the 20 times threshold.

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