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  • NEW ANALYSIS by union body shows extent of “decade of lost pay” as the Chancellor puts in place another public sector pay freeze

The TUC has today (Sunday) released new analysis which shows how four major groups of public sector key workers – firefighters, carers, refuse collectors and teachers – are all over £1000 worse off in real terms than ten years ago.

Of the four occupational groups analysed, firefighters’ pay packets were hit the hardest as they lost out by £2,508 compared to 2010.

Pay 2010

Pay 2010 in real terms today (2010 pay adjusted for inflation using CPI)

Pay 2020


Care worker










Refuse collector










The TUC says it chose to highlight this diverse set of public sector workers as they are all key workers, expected to continue to work throughout lockdown and local restrictions, throughout the height of the first and second waves of the pandemic.

Care workers have been caring for some of the most vulnerable and putting themselves at risk to do so. Firefighters have taken on vital additional tasks like driving ambulances, delivering PPE, and delivering food supplies to vulnerable people. Refuse workers have been keeping our streets clear, often in conditions that don’t allow for proper social distancing. And teachers have taught children but also allowed parents to return to work – boosting the whole economy.

The TUC says that these workers’ experiences are illustrative of workers across the wider public sector, who may have taken on additional work, may have changed what they do to respond to the pandemic and have experienced a much higher level of personal risk in the past year.

This analysis follows the chancellor’s decision to freeze public sector pay next year. Under the chancellor’s plans, all these occupations will face a real terms pay cut. This follows a decade of pay freezes and caps. Public sector pay was frozen from 2011-13 and then capped at a 1% annual increase until 2018.

Responding to the freeze, the union body called it a “kick in the teeth” to all public sector key workers who had kept the country going through the coronavirus crisis.

Commenting on the new analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Carers, firefighters, refuse collectors and teachers all worked around the clock during the crisis to keep the country going – often at great personal risk.

“After suffering a decade of lost pay, yet another pay freeze is no way to reward our key public sector workers.

"Unions will fight for the proper pay rise our key workers have earned. Working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”


Editors note

- Public sector pay data compares 2010 and 2020 pay and is adjusted for inflation using CPI – comparing 2010 wages in real terms today (if they had kept up with the cost of living) with 2020 wages. The pay figures are for individual occupations at the top of the relevant pay scale

- Occupations: local government residential care worker, qualified firefighter, teacher and refuse collector

- The TUC and 18 trade unions representing public sector workers recently wrote to the Chancellor calling on him to give all public sector workers a pay rise- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


Priya Rane


TUC press office  
020 7467 1248 

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