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Friday, September 22, 2017

Why we need to scrap the public pay cap

Public finances remain in a mess, the economy has barely recovered from the 2008 crash and hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet, with the in-work poverty and a reliance on food banks growing by the day.

The on-going public sector pay freeze has exacerbated this problem for those who have dedicated their working lives to keeping vital services going. This is especially harsh in the health service, where nurses, ambulance staff, junior doctors, professions allied to medicine and auxiliary staff have seen their commitment and dedication unrewarded for a number of years.

The scale of the problem is reduced to pounds and pence in this Independent article. They say that the average health worker has endured a real terms cut of almost £2,000 over the past seven years. They support this assertion by comparing the median average salary of all NHS staff in June 2017, which was £31,526 a year, with the like-for-like figure of £29,132 in August 2010. As consumer price inflation has risen by 15 per cent over that period, this translates into a real terms cut for these workers of £1,985 a year.

The average though, conceals that some NHS workers have suffered still bigger real terms reductions in pay. The pay of ambulance staff is down £5,286 in real terms and for midwives it is £3,504 lower. The Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that public services will struggle to recruit and retain the staff they need unless ministers ease the restraint on pay They say that the gap between public and private pay has now returned to pre-crisis levels.

It is little wonder that trade unions are balloting for strike action. The need to lift the pay cap for all public sector workers has never been more urgent. I hope that the Government heeds the many calls to yield on this demand so as to make those strikes unnecessary.
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