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November 21, 2020

Public sector pay cap prediction sparks industrial action threat

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P
Pa
November 21, 2020

LONDON: The government is facing the threat of industrial action if it imposes a cap on the pay of millions of public sector workers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly preparing to announce a limit on the pay of millions of council staff, civil servants, teachers, police and other public servants when he unveils his spending review next week.

Frontline NHS doctors and nurses are expected to be exempt from any cap in recognition of their work during the coronavirus crisis.

Unions reacted angrily to the prospect of a wage freeze after such a tumultuous year, with one saying industrial action could not be ruled out.

The Treasury said it did not comment on speculation, but said public sector pay restraint was mentioned by Sunak in July when the spending review was launched.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Civil servants along with millions of other public sector workers have kept the country running throughout this pandemic, and the last thing they deserve is another pay freeze. If Rishi Sunak fails to pay public sector workers properly, there will be widespread anger and industrial action cannot be ruled out.”

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: “We will not stand by and allow public sectors workers to pay for this crisis with new austerity and a morale-sapping wage freeze. This is a kick in the teeth for those who have been fighting the pandemic.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Freezing pay is no way to reward key workers for their service. Unions will fight for the proper pay rise they have earned. Working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”

A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) said private sector workers had suffered far more from the economic impact of the disease.

The centre-right think tank said measures were needed to ensure the labour market was not unfairly weighted towards the public sector.

It said that a three-year pay freeze across the public sector could save up to £23 billion, helping to plug the hole in the public finances opened up by the pandemic.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said a new pay cap would be a “cruel body blow” to NHS staff not on the frontline.

Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary, said: “After a decade of pay austerity in the public sector which has seen pay increases lag behind inflation and the private sector, a further pay freeze across the public sector will be seen as an insult and have a devastating impact.” Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Further attacks on pay would show utter contempt for working people. ”