Millions of public sector workers have been awarded pay hikes of between 4 and 5 per cent – prompting unions to prepare for autumn strike action, as chiefs lashed out at ”brutal” below-inflation increases.
About 2.5 million staff across Britain will soon see a hike in their pay packets after the government accepted “fair and sustainable” increases recommended by state review bodies.
But unions warned that they would ballot members on industrial action, pointing out that the “kick in the teeth” settlements will not keep pace with soaring inflation – currently running at 9.1 per cent.
Most full-time nurses in the NHS will only get a basic pay rise worth 4 per cent, a salary increase of around £1,400, though new nursing staff will see starting pay rise by 5.5 per cent to £27,055.
The vast majority of teachers will get only a 5 per cent increase, while salaries for new teachers outside of London will be increased 8.9 per cent to £28,000 as part of a recruitment drive.
And police officers will get a 5 per cent pay rise – an annual salary uplift of around £1,900 – after home secretary Priti Patel accepted all recommendations of the pay review body.
The Public Commercial Services (PCS) general secretary Mark Serwotka described the awards as an “outrage” and warned of widespread strikes in the autumn. “We’ll be talking to our colleagues in other unions about organising co-ordinated national strike action,” he said.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We expected the inevitable betrayal but the scale of it is an affront”, before warning that Unite would back “all and every action” members wish to take.
The GMB union, representing hundreds of thousands of NHS workers, said members would now be balloted on industrial action. “They deserve so much better than this,” said the union’s Laurence Turner.
“GMB will now ballot our members on the offer … everyone has their breaking point, and without a fundamental change we will not be able to deliver the public services the country needs,” he added.
Eligible doctors and dentists will see a 4.5 per cent increase, according to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), while the lowest earners in the health service will receive a boost of up to 9.3 per cent.
But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) described the 4 per cent basic pay increase – which will see average basic pay for nurses increase from around £35,600 to £37,000 – as a “grave misstep by ministers”.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said members would be asked if they want to strike. “Living costs are rising and yet they have enforced another real-terms pay cut on nursing staff,” she said. “It will push more nurses and nursing support workers out of the profession.”
The British Medical Association said the 4.5 per cent increased awarded to some doctors this year amounted to a “brutal pay cut” which will come as a “bitter blow”.
The National Education Union (NEU) condemned the “very poor pay proposal” of 5 per cent for teachers, and said members would be consulted on strikes. “We will have no hesitation in recommending our members take action,” said the Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretary.
“Teachers don’t want to strike – they want to be in the classroom teaching our pupils. But we cannot stand by and watch the biggest real-terms decline in teacher pay this century,” he added.
The NASUWT teaching union also said it would “not stand by” and the award – warning that teachers anger over a decade of pay freezes and below-inflation awards would not go over the summer.
Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, said: “Teachers will be dismayed to hear that the government expects them to stomach the largest real terms cut to their pay.”
The Police Federation, representing rank and file officers in England and Wales, said the 5 per cent rise announced by home secretary Priti Patel was “disappointing” but a “small first step” in repairing trust between the government and the profession.
Officers on the lowest pay will get an uplift of up to 8.8 per cent, will those on the highest pay will see only a 0.6 per and 1.8 per cent hike in salaries. Minimum starting salaries in the police will also be raised to £23,556.
Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke told a meeting of Boris Johnson’s cabinet earlier on Tuesday that a “fair and sustainable” pay rise had been agreed for public sector workers.
But MPs were warned on Tuesday that hospital staff and prison workers are now quitting for less stressful and sometimes better paid jobs at supermarkets amid the cost of living crisis.
David Fry – director of the group that advises on what public workers should be paid – said the review body setting prison workers’ pay had heard reports of staff leaving to become delivery drivers.
His comments were echoed by Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady, who said soome porters and cleaners at NHS hospitals were also quitting.
The TUC leader added: “They’ve been through a lot personally, emotionally, mentally, and if they can get a job in a supermarket that is not as emotionally demanding and very often on better pay, why not?”
The TUC leader also took aim at comments from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, and others, that increasing workers’ pay will push up inflation.
She said: “I would strongly advise anybody on more than half a million a year not to be lecturing low-paid workers on what they’re entitled to.”