Almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise, but various trade unions have criticised the move for excluding many key workers.
In announcing the pay rise, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that he recognised the “vital contribution” of public sector workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, many key workers who have been on the front line of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 have been excluded from the pay rise. Nurses are not included as they negotiated a separate new pay deal in 2018 that lasts for three years, while junior doctors are also not included as they negotiated a pay rise last year.
The pay rises vary for different public sector professions:
- Teachers in England, and dentists and doctors across the UK will see the largest increases at 3.1% and 2.8% respectively
- Police, prison officers and National Crime Agency staff in England and Wales will be given a 2.5% rise in pay, while members of the armed forces across the UK will get 2%
- Members of the judiciary and senior civil servants across the UK will also see their pay topped up by 2%
Mr Sunak said: “These past months have underlined what we always knew, that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them.
“It’s right, therefore, that we follow the recommendations of the independent pay bodies with this set of real-terms pay rises.”
However, Labour’s shadow chancellor Annelise Dodds said that the pay rises do not go far enough to undo seven years of frozen public sector pay under the Conservative government. She said the pay rise was “good news” but added that it “won’t make up for a decade of real-term pay cuts” endured by many front-line workers. The Labour MP went on to highlight that those working in social care will also not receive a pay rise.
She went on: “Many other public sector workers – including those working on the front line in social care – won’t get a pay rise out of this at all because the Tories haven’t made good on their promises to boost local authority funding,” the Labour MP said.
“That’s not fair – and it’s no way to reward those who’ve been at the forefront of fighting this pandemic.”
Trade unions have also criticised the public sector pay rise, with UNISON calling in the government to fund pay rises for a wider spectrum of public sector and “key” workers.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The dedication and hugely important part played by all NHS, care, council, police and school staff during the pandemic is clear for all to see. But pay rises must be funded or already-stretched public services will feel an even greater pinch.
“The government must show its appreciation by coming up with the cash now to give the rest of the NHS staff – including nurses, porters, ambulance crew and cleaners – an early pay rise this year. Local authorities also need proper funding so council, school support staff and care workers can get a well-deserved wages boost too.
“Investment in staff and public services now will help boost the economy and ensure the UK’s in a better position to withstand a possible second wave.”
The GMB union echoed these sentiments, criticising the government for ignoring many key workers – many of whom are struggling to pay their bills after enduring real-terms pay cuts over the past decade.
GMB acting general secretary John Phillips said: “Today’s announcement does nothing for the vast majority of public sector workers. Low-paid support staff will not see their wages rise, and NHS workers remain stuck on a pay settlement that has meant real-terms cuts for long-serving staff.
“These recommendations will affect just 20% of England’s 4.4 million public sector workers. If the Government was serious about recognising the sacrifices made by public sector workers then they’d ensure desperately needed pay rises for all groups.
“Many of our NHS staff, teaching assistants, local authority workers, care workers and civil servants are struggling to pay the bills after a decade of real-terms pay cuts. Words are hollow without actions.”
Unite called the pay rises a “step in the right direction”, but highlighted the plight of many local authority and council workers who have also seen a real-terms reduction in pay.
Unite national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said: “What the chancellor has announced for 900,000 public sector employees is a step in the right direction and a recognition of the vital role they have played in the fight against coronavirus.
“But the chancellor has a selective memory when it comes to finding cash for local government employers to pay their workers a decent pay rise – they are the forgotten army of public service.
“Council workers –including schools, refuse collection, cemeteries, child protection, and the care of our elderly and vulnerable – have been working throughout the pandemic. They are the glue that keeps services for local communities running on a daily basis through good times and bad.
“However, currently the employers are offering their staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a derisory and insulting £1.83p a day – and this has to be seen in the context of a decade of attacks on pay and conditions that has resulted in a 20 per cent cut in pay in real terms in local government over the last 10 years.
“We know the public is appreciative and supportive of our frontline workforce. Unfortunately, neither Rishi Sunak nor the local government employers are mirroring public opinion.
“If the government is serious about ‘levelling up’ society, the chancellor needs to find the money to fund a decent pay rise for council workers.”
Responding to the rise in pay for teachers, the National Education Union suggested the focus on pay rises for new teachers could make staff retention an even bigger issue in years to come.
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “The government has presented teachers with a curate’s egg in today’s announcement. Raising starting salaries by 5.5% should make the profession more attractive to graduates. But the prospect of salaries tapering off as they progress through the profession means that progress made in recruiting teachers will not be sustained in retaining them.
“More experienced teachers and leaders must see their immense hard work and efforts rewarded fairly, and this pay award does not do that. The NEU asked for a 7% pay rise for all teachers. This award does not achieve this entirely reasonable ambition. It is already the case that 22% of teachers leave teaching within 2 years. This is an awful waste which impacts most directly on disadvantaged children who most need teachers. We will not begin to close the attainment gap until we keep teachers in the profession.
“Without full funding by the government, for many teachers the pay increases announced in previous years have existed only in theory. The dismantling of the national pay structure, imposition of PRP and real-terms funding cuts have resulted in many teachers not getting the cost-of-living increases announced in previous years. NEU called for a fully-funded 7% increase in September and we reiterate this call.”