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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tory MP comes out against regional pay

Yesterday's Telegraph reports that Guy Opperman, the only Tory MP in the north-east of England, has come out against regional pay, arguing that the Chancellor’s proposals will be unfair on public sector staff and will not help the UK economy.

They say that Mr Opperman told the Newcastle Journal that public sector workers are already contributing to the Coalition’s deficit reduction programme through pay freezes and job losses:

“I see no economic argument for introducing regional pay. Our current pay system, which sets a base pay rate, already allows for adjustments in high cost areas like London,” he said.

“I am very concerned that regional pay would lead to a reduction in the pay packets of some public sector workers in the North East.

“I do not believe reducing public sector pay will help stimulate private economic growth.”

“What will grow our private sector here in the North East is continued investment in manufacturing, exports and apprenticeships. That’s what the Government has done so far and that’s what we should stick with.”

Mr Opperman's views are very much in line with those of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, who like the Welsh Tories are strongly opposed to regional or local pay. We were dismayed when the Western Mail published details of correspondence from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to the Welsh Government urging them to adopt a local pay approach.

There is substantial evidence that regional pay will hit public sector workers very hard in Wales and undermine economic policies designed to pull us out of recession. We have been heartened by supportive comments from Nick Clegg and Vince Cable that have indicated that Liberal Democrats in Government are resisting this development and understand that behind the scenes this is certainly the case. That is why Danny Alexander's intervention was both unhelpful and puzzling.

We will continue to fight the case for retaining national pay settlements in the public sector and put pressure on UK Government Ministers to look on that argument favourably.

Update: Danny Alexander gave a speech to the GMB this afternoon, during which he clarified his position on local pay. The relevant section is below:

There are two significant further areas where I would welcome more engagement between Government and the Trades Unions.

Where by working together, I believe we can get a better outcome for workers and employers.

And a better outcome for jobs, growth and the quality of our public services.

The first is on local market facing pay.

As you will know, the Government has invited the independent Pay Review Bodies to consider whether there is evidence for making public sector pay more responsive to local labour markets.

The Pay Review Bodies will report back next month.

At the moment, while private sector pay is set in accordance with local labour markets, public sector pay is set on a national basis.

So it’s right that we should look at the evidence.

Despite some of the more excited press reporting, the only thing we have decided is to look at the evidence.

So, let me be clear on this.

This is not about introducing regional pay.

It is not about ending national pay bargaining.

It is not about cutting anyone’s pay.

And it is not about making further savings.

And, before we decide anything, we want to hear from everyone with a contribution to make to this debate – employers, academics and, yes of course, the Trades Unions.

There will be no change unless there is strong evidence to support it and a rational case for proceeding.
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