Trade unions accuse Government of 'smoke and mirrors' over scrapping of pay cap

Posted On: 
12th September 2017

Trade unions have joined forces to condemn the Government's decision to start lifting the public sector pay cap - branding it a "smoke and mirrors" policy which does not go far enough.

Unions have hit out at the Government's pay cap announcement.
PA Images

Downing Street announced at lunchtime that prison staff and police officers would be the first to benefit from an easing of the policy, which has seen the pay of state employees frozen or capped at 1% since 2010.

Prison officers will get a 1.7% rise in 2017/18, while police officers will get a 2% overall boost, the Prime Minister's spokesman said. 

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However, with official figures this morning revealing that inflation is 2.9%, it means they will still be getting a real-terms cut in their wages.

It was also confirmed that the Treasury is not making any extra cash available to pay for the policy, meaning departments will have to find it from their existing budgets.

Rehana Azam, GMB national Secretary for public services, said: "We do not welcome this paltry announcement, which is nothing but smoke and mirror politics that insults our public sector workers.

"Make no mistake, our members across the public services are angry after seven years of pay pinching by the Government.

"The idea that robbing Peter to pay Paul, raiding already stretched departmental budgets will solve this problem shows Theresa May is living in a fantasy land, far removed from public opinion."

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "This announcement is pathetic and will do nothing to address the pay misery that public sector workers have had to endure over the last seven years.

"The Government has signalled a ‘pick and mix’ approach to lifting the pay cap and with no new money it is difficult to see how austerity-ravaged services will be able to afford to give a decent pay rise in the coming months.

"It cannot be right that our public servants, the people who care for our sick, who keep us safe and clean our streets struggle to make ends meet are forced to rely on foodbanks.

“All our public servants deserve a decent pay rise that keeps up with inflation and undoes the years of real term pay cuts they have suffered at the hands of Tory minsters.”

PCS boss Mark Serwotka said: "We reject any divide and rule offers from the Government that seeks to pit uniformed workers against non-uniformed workers.

"All public sector workers deserve a pay rise and the Government needs to scrap the cap now for all."

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: "Any attempt to cherry-pick which public servants deserve a pay rise will be a betrayal to the expertise and dedication public servants make for the good of the country.

 "Civil servants will not need to read between lines to know that this announcement offers them nothing. We have asked government to listen to reason. It's increasingly clear we will need to do more than that and Prospect is now focused on real action for change not rhetoric."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the unions' stance.

He told the TUC annual congress in Brighton: "A pay cut is a pay cut. We must be united in breaking the pay cap for all workers. So let me be absolutely clear today. The labour party totally rejects the Tories’ attempts to divide and rule. A Labour government will end the public sector pay cap and give all workers the pay they desperately need."

But Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Our talented and hardworking public sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded and I am pleased to confirm the pay awards for police and prison officers for 2017/18.

"The Government takes a balanced approach to public spending, dealing with our debts to keep our economy strong, while also making sure we invest in our public services.

"We will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that we can deliver world class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole."