Chancellor warned he faces Union backlash over pay ‘pause’ for public sector workers

The Chancellor has been warned he is on a collision course with public sector workers after he announced a “pause” in rises for many next year.

Rishi Sunak said nurses, doctors and others in the NHS will get a pay rise, but for the rest of the public sector, any increase will be paused, affecting firefighters, teachers, the armed forces, police, civil servants, council and Government agency staff.

Mr Sunak (pictured) added that the lowest paid public sector staff – those earning below £24,000 – would see their pay increased by at least £250.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The Chancellor’s public sector pay freeze will hit key workers who have risked everything during the pandemic.

“This attempt to divide and rule will put him on a direct collision course with public service workers, and he should know that we fought the public sector pay cap before and we busted it.

“GMB will not accept more pay cuts for our members at a time when the whole country is relying on them.

“The Government should tax those who have profited from the pandemic – get them to stump up the cash that has lined their pockets, whilst our keyworkers have kept the UK going.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said: “Civil servants and other public sector staff will feel a deep sense of betrayal at today’s pay freeze.

“Despite keeping the country running during the Covid crisis, supplying Universal Credit and helping businesses access the furlough scheme, the Chancellor has justified a pay freeze by pointing to lower wages in the private sector.

“Today’s announcement has intensified long-standing anger at a decade of pay restraint and increased the likelihood of industrial unrest in the public sector.”

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said: “It is shameful that the Government is employing a policy of divide and rule of private and public key workers, all of whom have risked their lives during the pandemic.

“RMT will have no hesitation in taking strike action to deliver our members the pay rise they deserve and in supporting national coordinated action to deliver pay justice for all key workers.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered a body blow to the public sector workers he has targeted to bear the brunt of the costs of the pandemic with a pay freeze – his so-called ‘pause’.

“The sop of £250 to the two million public sector workers earning under £24,000-a-year is insulting and compares badly with the inflated sums that the Government has wasted on PPE contracts for those with links to the Tory establishment.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is austerity, plain and simple.

“A decade of spending cuts left public services exposed when Covid came calling. The Government is making the same disastrous mistake again.

“Going after the pay of millions will be a bitter pill for key workers getting the UK through the pandemic and out the other side.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “The Chancellor addressed a pay rise for nursing but did not deliver one today. He had the opportunity to recognise and reward the expertise and dedication of UK nursing staff today and respond to calls for an early and significant pay rise.

“The level of pay rise that Government agrees must reflect the true skills and value of nursing. For now, they continue to be worse off than 10 years ago.

“At a time when many experienced nurses are burnt out, exhausted and considering leaving the career they love, the link between unfair pay, staffing levels and safety becomes even more stark.

“Nursing staff across the board will oppose plans to freeze the pay of equally skilled professionals. Those working in social care and the community deserve a pay boost as much as their NHS colleagues.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The Chancellor said he wants stronger public services but has delivered a body blow to staff in our schools and colleges.

“Education workers are key workers who have kept the country going during the pandemic but pay cuts are their only reward from this Government.”

Prospect general secretary, Mike Clancy, said: “The Chancellor started his statement by promising stronger public services, but by freezing the pay of many thousands of public servants he is undermining the very people who are the foundation of our public sector.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For all the Government’s talk of levelling up, this spending review will level down Britain, hitting key workers’ pay and breaking the Government’s promises to the lowest paid.

“After a decade of standstill pay, yet another pay freeze is a kick in the teeth for the key workers in the public sector who kept the country going in this crisis.”

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Ministers were all too happy to call on firefighters early in the pandemic, but after standing outside Downing Street and applauding key workers, the Chancellor with the same hands gave them a cold, hard slap in the face.

“Today, the UK fire and rescue service remains 11,200 firefighters down on a decade ago, and the Chancellor has utterly failed to do anything about it.”

Warren Kenny, acting general secretary of the GMB, said: “There won’t be a ‘pause’ in how much rent, mortgages, food and transport costs. The Chancellor couldn’t even bring himself to say the words pay freeze.”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “In a year where the Government has wasted millions on botched PPE procurement deals and somehow found the funds to establish a new Space Command, it has chosen to reward the public sector workers who have been at the forefront of the pandemic response with yet another year of frozen pay.

“Despite the Prime Minister’s proclamation that there would be no return to austerity, that is demonstrably not the case for the majority of the public sector workforce.

“The Chancellor has referred to this as a pay ‘pause’ but with absolutely no detail on how or when this will come to an end, our members will have no confidence that this will indeed be a temporary measure.”

The Treasury estimated that the pay announcement will directly affect 1.3 million workers, less than 25% of the total number of 5.5 million.

Unite leader Len McCluskey said: “The need to stabilise low incomes and to create jobs is urgent and evident but for all his talk of the economic emergency engulfing the nation, his financial package for the coming year lacked the ambition and the appetite to address this rolling crisis on the scale needed.

“Setting out more chairs in the job centre will not help avert mass unemployment.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.