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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Public Sector Pay

by New Worker correspondent

THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer will be announcing his annual Spending Review this week. Whilst the fine print is unclear, it does seem likely that there is not going to be a pay bonanza for public sector workers.

The Transport and Salaried Staff Association’s (TSSA) London Transport workers denounced weekend press speculation to this effect, saying that workers who put their health and lives on the line during the pandemic shouldn’t be punished with pay freezes, which in effect is a pay cut in real terms.

At least 45 Transport for London (TfL) staff have died from COVID-19, with thousands more having to self-isolate after contracting the coronavirus or being in close contact with someone who had it, or because they are clinically vulnerable.

on the line

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “Our members across our railways and transport networks have put their health and lives on the line during the COVID pandemic to keep key workers, medicines and goods moving. We believe that their efforts should be recognised and rewarded alongside other key workers. After such dedication and bravery, slapping them with a pay freeze would be the greatest insult. Many of our members at Network Rail have already seen their performance pay slashed, the last thing they need is another slap in the face.

“We urge the government to ensure our public sector and our rail workers are not made to bear the brunt of paying for the government’s failures in handling the virus – from unbelievably expensive mistakes in procurement to a failed track and trace operation which has set us back at every turn.”

Cortes noted that: “The government has been happy to pay out over £100 million of taxpayers’ money to private rail shareholders under emergency COVID measures, so the last thing they should be doing is punishing is our hard working members who deliver these vital services.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis made similar points: “Key workers across all public services remain at the heart of the fight against COVID.

“ Reports of pay restraint for all but frontline NHS staff would be a cruel body blow to other health, care and public service employees working tirelessly to get us through the pandemic. It would also backfire badly with the public.

“The government must do what’s right and announce the wage rise all staff have more than earned. Anything less risks destroying morale when the entire country is counting on them.”

in the teeth

Another union that organises in the public sector, the GMB, said the proposed pay freeze was “a kick in the teeth”.

Rehana Azam, the new GMB National Secretary, 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. Workers have lost friends and loved ones. The crisis is still raging. Now they’re being kicked while they’re down. Our key workers are still feeling the effect of 10 years of Tory austerity, pay freezes and squeezes. Rishi Sunak is now poised to add insult to injury for millions of public sector workers…Ministers are doling out billions in contracts for their chums, and all the while plotting real terms wage cuts for working people on the frontline of the coronavirus response.”

She also noted that the union is preparing a judicial review against the government decision to swindle public sector workers of their pensions should they leave their employment due to redundancy.

The union warns that public sector workers could easily use their voting power to defeat the Tories. It notes that public sector workers outnumber new Tory MPs’ majorities in 43 out of the 54 seats that the Conservatives won from Labour last December.

Despite losing almost a million public sector jobs since 2010, the number of public sector workers outstrips the average incumbent MP’s majority by 3,400 in recent Tory victories in the Midlands and the North. In particular, Tory Stoke-on-Trent MP Jo Gideon has a majority of 670 but must keep happy 19,700 public sector employees in the constituency.

Ms Azam noted that: “Public sector workers’ wages have never recovered from a decade of pay austerity, which forced thousands of key workers to depend on debt and food banks.

“Eight months ago, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak promised to put their ‘arms around every single worker’ – now they are coming for the wages of teaching assistants who earn under £14,000 a year, and are already finding it difficult to make ends meet.” She optimistically added that: “If Conservative MPs insist on pushing this cruel and counterproductive measure through then it will not be forgotten at the next election.”

On Monday the TUC and 18 unions representing public sector workers joined in to call on the Chancellor to give all public sector workers a pay rise as a reward for their efforts in helping the country through the coronavirus crisis.


Setting out their case in a letter to the Treasury yesterday, the civil service, local government and NHS unions say a pay rise is a “matter of justice” for firefighters, teaching assistants, care workers, refuse collectors and all the public sector key workers who have worked around the clock to get the country through the crisis.

They also point out that over the last 10 years some public sector workers have seen the real value of their pay fall by over £3000 per year. All well and good, but they seem to have forgotten that writing a letter two days before the announcement is a waste of time because the decision would have been made long before the union bureaucrats shuffled drafts of their letter between each other.

The unions point out that too many public sector workers were left out of recent pay awards in July whilst for those who did benefit, the rise fell far short of making up for a decade of lost pay.


They also make the valid point that freezing pay will make filling vacancies harder and that the Treasury benefits from increasing public sector pay. Paying the Real Living Wage would increase public sector pay by two per cent, thus boosting GDP by around £1.1–£2.1 billion, which would increase the tax take by between £370 million–£700 million.

A higher increase in public sector pay of five per cent would deliver a boost to GDP of between £2.4bn–£4.6bn, with an increased tax take of between £800bn–£1.54 billion. Thus, most of the increase would pay for itself. In order not to upset other unions who benefit from securing jobs, no unfavourable comparisons are made to the recently announced boost to military spending.

As a result of the boost to GDP and tax take, the net cost to the Exchequer would halve to between £1.34bn–£1.67 billion for a two per cent increase, and to between £2.94bn–£3.66 billion for a five per cent increase.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “All public sector workers are key workers. Care workers, teaching assistants, refuse collectors firefighters and all our dedicated public servants are the ones getting us through this crisis – often at great personal risk.

“Holding down their pay is no way to reward their service. Public sector workers have already endured a decade of pay restraint.

“And it makes little economic sense. Freezing pay will give workers less money to spend on their local high street”.

Lydia Prieg speaking for the New Economics Foundation, which produced these figures, added: “Our analysis shows that public sector pay rises are not only a just reward for the workers protecting us on the frontline, but they will also boost demand and strengthen the economy in a time of recession. It should be a no-brainer for government. Paying our public sector workers properly can help us through this crisis and support our economic recovery on the other side. But it is vital that this is new money, and not making further demands on stretched departmental budgets.”