For seven years, the government have frozen public servants’ pay or given them a settlement below inflation. As prices, rents and bills go up, that means real hardship for many.
The public sector union Unison found that shocking numbers of healthcare staff were having to use food banks, payday lenders and pawnshops. They found that more than two thirds (67%) said they had either sought financial help or made major changes to their standards of living in the past 12 months.
A firefighter today is earning £2000 less in real terms than they were in 2010. A midwife has seen their pay cut in real terms by £3000. And this when rents are rising and the money in your pocket stretches less and less far.
A modest pay rise is not unaffordable. If public sector workers saw their earnings rise by inflation over the next five years, it would add just 1% to annual departmental spending. And it would pay for itself through a local economic boost – not least in the UK’s poorest regions – and through a higher tax take.
The consensus is growing. The TUC’s own post-election poll shows that 76% of all voters supported giving public sector workers the payrise they deserve. Conservative MPs tell tales of being tackled on the doorstep by teachers and nurses angry that their pay was being artificially held down – and losing votes because of it.
That’s why the government should end real terms pay cuts for all public sector workers in the autumn budget 2017.
Chancellor Philip Hammond was reported as saying that public sector workers are overpaid. On the Andrew Marr show on Sunday he was given multiple opportunities to deny the accusation. But while he did not repeat the tone-deaf claim, neither did he row back on it.
David Chrimes is a Crown Advocate employed by the Crown Prosecution Service. He writes about why, after a seven-year squeeze, public sector workers deserve a pay rise.