Union issues warning to Tory MPs over public-sector pay

There has been speculation the Chancellor will announce a salary freeze in his comprehensive spending review.

GMB protesters
GMB protesters

Conservative MPs are being warned of consequences at the next general election if they support a freeze on the pay of public-sector workers.

There has been angry union reaction to speculation that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a curb on the pay of millions of workers in the public sector in his comprehensive spending review on Wednesday.

The GMB said its research suggested that public-sector employees outnumber new MPs’ majorities in 43 out of the 54 seats that the Conservatives won from Labour last year.

Despite the loss of almost one million public-sector jobs since 2010, on average public-sector workers outstrip the incumbent MP’s majority by 3,400 in seats won by the Conservatives from Labour in the Midlands and the North, said the GMB.

National officer Rehana Azam said: “A new pay freeze would be an outrageous attack on some of the workers who sacrificed the most during the Covid pandemic.

“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.

“The politics of pay austerity has already been rejected by the electorate once before. Public-sector workers are already underpaid and exhausted, and recruitment and retention problems will inevitably be made worse by a pay freeze.

“GMB will not rest in campaigning for pay justice for all public service workers and if Conservative MPs insist on pushing this cruel and counterproductive measure through then it will not be forgotten at the next election.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “It is clear that any public-sector pay freeze will bear down hardest on female employees, who make up the majority of the public-sector workforce, such as nurses, teaching assistants and those who care for our most vulnerable.

“Already women have been badly affected by the pandemic as they juggle childcare responsibilities, their work commitments and worries about elderly relatives, and now the chancellor Rishi Sunak appears to be going to make their financial situation a lot worse, which is shameful.”

The Treasury has said it does not comment on speculation.

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the exceptional commitment of council staff and care workers who, alongside NHS health workers, have been on the front line in the battle against Covid-19 and are true heroes of this pandemic.

“As we look to build back better from the devastating social and economic impact of this crisis, our communities will need them and the local services they provide more than ever before.

“It is critical that the Government uses the spending review to provide significant investment so councils can continue to support their employees as much as possible and recruit and retain the staff needed to provide the local services that are delivered every day by our hard-working staff, alongside care workers and NHS colleagues.”

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