'Divide and rule' public sector pay freeze sees Chancellor clash with unions

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

Plans to freeze the play of public sectors has put the Chancellor on a collision course with unions.

Nurses, doctors and others in the NHS will get a pay rise, however others in the public sector, such as teachers, firefighters, armed forces and police, will see pay increases paused.

Rishi Sunak confirmed, however, that the lowest paid public sector staff – those earning below £24,000 – would see their pay increased by at least £250.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The Chancellor’s public sector pay freeze will hit key workers who have risked everything during the pandemic.

“This attempt to divide and rule will put him on a direct collision course with public service workers, and he should know that we fought the public sector pay cap before and we busted it.

“GMB will not accept more pay cuts for our members at a time when the whole country is relying on them.

“The Government should tax those who have profited from the pandemic – get them to stump up the cash that has lined their pockets, whilst our keyworkers have kept the UK going.”

Rishi Sunak delivered his Spending Review Credit: House of Commons/PA

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said: “Civil servants and other public sector staff will feel a deep sense of betrayal at today’s pay freeze.

“Despite keeping the country running during the Covid crisis, supplying Universal Credit and helping businesses access the furlough scheme, the Chancellor has justified a pay freeze by pointing to lower wages in the private sector.

“Today’s announcement has intensified long-standing anger at a decade of pay restraint and increased the likelihood of industrial unrest in the public sector.”

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said: “It is shameful that the Government is employing a policy of divide and rule of private and public key workers, all of whom have risked their lives during the pandemic.

“RMT will have no hesitation in taking strike action to deliver our members the pay rise they deserve and in supporting national coordinated action to deliver pay justice for all key workers.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “The Chancellor addressed a pay rise for nursing but did not deliver one today. He had the opportunity to recognise and reward the expertise and dedication of UK nursing staff today and respond to calls for an early and significant pay rise.

“The level of pay rise that Government agrees must reflect the true skills and value of nursing. For now, they continue to be worse off than 10 years ago.

“At a time when many experienced nurses are burnt out, exhausted and considering leaving the career they love, the link between unfair pay, staffing levels and safety becomes even more stark.

“Nursing staff across the board will oppose plans to freeze the pay of equally skilled professionals. Those working in social care and the community deserve a pay boost as much as their NHS colleagues.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For all the Government’s talk of levelling up, this spending review will level down Britain, hitting key workers’ pay and breaking the Government’s promises to the lowest paid.

“After a decade of standstill pay, yet another pay freeze is a kick in the teeth for the key workers in the public sector who kept the country going in this crisis.”

The public sector pay freeze is a “kick in the teeth” for police officers who have been in the frontline in the battle against Covid, the Police Federation has said.

National chairman of the organisation John Apter called the move “a disgrace” that did nothing to show appreciation for public sector workers who had kept the country going amid the pandemic.

Mr Apter said the extra £250 would only apply to a small handful of officers who were already on “an appallingly low starting salary”.

He said: “After years of austerity and a real terms pay cut of 18%, today’s news will be a kick in the teeth for police officers.

Police officers will not be getting a payrise. Credit: PA

“This year my colleagues have been on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19, protecting the public and putting their own safety and the safety of their families at risk. Despite the warm words and the weekly applause for key workers, it seems to count for nothing.

“We are realists; we know that the country is facing a difficult economic future. But rewarding those who have played a vital role in the fight against the virus with a pay freeze is nothing short of a disgrace.

“A handful of officers will get the additional £250 for the lowest paid workers, but only those who are already on an appallingly low starting salary for the dangerous job they do.

“I appreciate the devil will be in the detail, but the headlines from today’s announcement does nothing to show appreciation to police officers and other public sector workers who have kept the wheels turning during 2020.”