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Workers in the public sector face real pay falls of thousands of pounds by 2020, according to new analysis published today (Wednesday) by the TUC.

Midwives, teachers and social workers will see real pay losses of over £3,000, while nurses, firefighters and border guards face losing more than £2,500.

Ambulance drivers, who already earn significantly below the average UK wage, are set to miss out on over £1,800.

The falls in real pay are caused by government restrictions on public pay, which limit salary increases to 1% a year. This stops wages from keeping up with rising living costs.

Over 5.4 million people work in the public sector – nearly 1 in 5 workers in the UK.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Everyone in the UK has bills to pay, and it’s only fair that wages should at least keep up with rising living costs. Workers in the public sector are already feeling the squeeze, and it seems like there’s worse to come.

“Government pay restrictions hurt staff in overstretched public services, and make it even harder to recruit good people. Particularly at a time of crisis in the NHS, we need to be recruiting the best people for the job.

“It’s time for ministers to give public employers the freedom to negotiate with unions for pay in their sectors.”

The TUC proposes that the government allows each part of the public sector to determine appropriate pay, rather than a blanket national limit.

The TUC is also calling on the government to reform pay review bodies to be genuinely independent, and raise low public sector pay to become a real living wage employer.


Notes to Editors:
- The report, Public Sector Pay Restraint in England, is available from the press office.
- Real pay is pay adjusted for inflation. Pay cuts are calculated by mapping pay growth of public sector workers (see table below) at 1% a year, against the OBR’s forecasted RPI inflation (released Nov 2016). Pay levels are taken from the top of a pay scale in a given job, as listed in the NHS Agenda for Change paygrades.

Occupation Pay in 2015/16 Pay in 2020/21
at RPI in 2016 prices
Real pay cut
in 2016 prices
Real pay cut
in 2016 prices
Social worker £37,858 £34,325 -£3,533 9.3%
Midwife £35,255 £31,937 -£3,288 9.3%
Teacher £32,831 £29,767 -£3,064 9.3%
Fire fighter £29,638 £26,827 -£2,766 9.3%
Nurse £28,462 £25,806 -£2,656 9.3%
UK Border Agency officer £27,000 £24,480 -£2,520 9.3%
Jobcentre Plus supervisor £24,727 £22,419 -£2,308 9.3%
Ambulance driver £19,655 £17,821 -£1,834 9.3%
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