Unions say Johnson public sector pay freeze offer ‘won’t go far enough’

4 Jul 19

Boris Johnson will not reverse damage done to staff morale and salaries with a promise to end public sector wage freezes in the future, unions have said.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told The Times on Monday Johnson would “show the public sector some love” if he became prime minister. 

People in the public sector need to be properly rewarded for the brilliant job they do,” Hancock told The Times. “Higher pay, not higher taxes, means a pay rise for everyone, including in the public sector”.

But Rehana Azam, GMB union national secretary, said: “These warm words mask his ugly plan to slash jobs and run down our services.

“Our public services are underfunded, overstretched and short staffed, with morale damaged by years of real terms pay cuts.”

She added: “If he thinks this will reverse the damage, Boris Johnson is showing he is totally divorced from the reality faced by our members, who are delivering vital services day in, day out.”

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing, which represents over 300,000 nursing staff in England, said: “Warm words about public sector workers won’t get any new prime minister very far. The wages of too many still lag behind where they were ten years ago in real terms.

“Until their pay matches the education and skills required, the government will struggle to fill the 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England.”

The spending pledge is one of a range made by Johnson and his rival in the race to be leader of the Conservatives and the next prime minister, Jeremy Hunt.  

Hunt has promised to increase defence spending to 2.5% of national income over the next five years, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated would cost £15bn more in 2023-24 that today.

Today Johnson pledged 20,000 more officers on the streets within three years, which he said he would be concentrated in rural areas. This would cost an estimated £1.1bn, assuming the medium gross earnings of an officer is £45,000 and adding National Insurance Contributions.

A public sector pay freeze was brought in under austerity measures in 2011 and lasted until 2013, when rises were capped at 1% until 2017.

Hancock also told The Times he has just settled a dispute with junior doctors, handing them an 8% pay rise over several years, which he said “shows that the days of pay freezes are over”.

Last week a landmark judgement on public sector pensions left the Treasury facing a £4bn annual bill.

In September 2018, Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said she was “extremely disappointed” by a 2% police pay rise. 

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