Trade unions claim 'huge victory' over public sector pay

Posted On: 
4th September 2017

Ministers agreeing to lift the public sector pay cap would be a "huge victory" for workers, one of Britain's biggest trade unions has declared.

Trade unionists protesting against the public sector pay cap in 2014

Reports in this morning's Sun suggest Theresa May is preparing to get rid of the cap limiting pay rises to a maximum of 1%, which has been in place since the 2012 Autumn Statement. 

As well as Labour and the union movement, the Prime Minister has been under pressure from her own MPs and Cabinet colleagues to change tack.

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Today's reports suggest Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss will make the recommendation to the relevant pay review boards later this month. 

Nurses and senior civil servants, both areas that are seeing problems with retaining staff, are reportedly in line to be among the first to get a pay boost - though the entire process is set to take over two years to spread the cost.

The GMB, whose membership includes over 300,000 public sector workers, welcomed the news but warned that the Government must offer pay rises across the board.

"The artificial cap on pay was always a political choice by the Conservative government. This damaging policy has seen thousands pinched from public sector workers over seven years,” said the union's national secretary, Rehana Azam. 

"If real pay rises are now on the cards it will be a huge victory for the GMB’s campaign and for public pressure on the Government, but the devil will be in the detail. 

"All public sector workers must receive proper pay rises - including those not covered by pay review bodies, such as school support staff, council workers and police staff. 

“The Prime Minister will not be able to get away with a sleight of hand on this one – we’re watching very closely.”


Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the details of any deal were crucial.

“Any move to lift the cap is to be welcomed as it is long overdue and teachers and other public sector workers have suffered severe cuts to their pay as a result of its unnecessary imposition.
“If the government is minded to remove the cap then it should allow review bodies to carry out their assessment of the pay needs of public sector workers without any further constraints from government. Without this the crisis facing many public services, including teaching, of recruitment and retention will not be addressed and the quality of our public services will suffer.”

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable described the reports of a change as "welcome but long overdue".

“The situation has changed since the public sector pay cap was first introduced, at a time when there was a real budget emergency and fear of large scale unemployment," he said. 

“The issue we face now is very different. We are struggling to recruit and retain public sector staff and the effects of this recruitment crisis are being felt across the board, from our schools to our hospitals."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the Treasury would write to the independent public sector pay bodies in the autumn setting out their remit for the next round of awards.

She added: "I'm not going to comment on speculation on what might happen at the end of that."