Issue date
18 Sep 2017

The public sector pay cap was the centre piece of the government’s austerity programme and 7 years on the government has clearly lost the argument and this policy is falling apart, the public think the pay restrictions are unfair and the government knows it because their MPs heard it on the doorstep of the last election.

An announcement made last week on the 3rd day of TUC congress will see prison officers be the first to breach the cap after ministers approved a 1.7 per cent pay increase. Police officers will get a 1 per cent rise, but will also get a one-off bonus worth another 1 per cent following independent advice that salaries were failing to match living costs.

The treasury has not agreed any new money to fund the increase, which will have to be met from existing budgets.

The view from trade unions at TUC Congress was that this below-inflation pay offer is pathetic. This isn't a pay rise, it's a pay cut. Public sector workers have suffered seven long years of real pay cuts, and are thousands of pounds worse off. Last weeks announcement means bills will continue to rise faster than their wages.

If Ministers think a derisory rise like this will deal with the staffing crisis in our public services, they are sorely mistaken.

The government needs to identify where this money is coming from. It can't be loaded on to our already-stretched public services

It’s up to the government to move things around to find this and it can be done. In recent years the government has cut billions from corporation tax and the chancellor plans more corporation tax cuts. If they have money for that, then they have money for hard working public servants. The institute of fiscal studies looked at Lib Dem and Labour plans to fund this and they reckon it costs less than 2 pence on the pound of public spending.

While I agree it is right for police and prison officers – it’s also right for nurses, firefighters, teachers and all hard working public servants. There should not be any cherry picking.

It’s easy to see why people want to give front line workers a pay rise, especially given the bravery and ability they have shown with Grenfell tower and other recent attacks. But in reality, the public sector works as a team. If a police officer cracks a case, they have done that with the help and support from backroom staff doing the forensic work. If a Doctor saves a life, it’s only because they have well-administered, fully-stocked hospital supporting them. While front line workers are the most visible part of the public sector team – all workers are valuable.

Our research showed that if the cap continues until 2020, then compared to 2016 social care workers would be worse off by £3,533; midwife £3,288; Teacher £3,064; fire fighter £2,766; Nurse £2,656 - It is time all public servants had their first proper pay rise in 7 years.

Beth Farhat, 

@bethfarhattuc