In England, millions of public sector workers face a pay freeze next year, which could affect the likes of police, teachers and NHS managers.
According to reports, around five million public sector workers are set to be affected by a pay cap, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak expected to announce the news during a government spending review next week.
Sunak will set out his Spending Review, which will detail how much money will be allocated to different areas over the 2020/21 financial year. He is expected to make the case for pay restraint to reflect a fall in private sector earnings this year.
According to The Times, only frontline NHS doctors and nurses will be exempt from the cap, in recognition of their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Difficult to justify generous pay rises in the public sector’
The Times reports that Sunak will argue that the move is only fair, since the private sector has been hit hard during the pandemic.
The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) argued that a three year pay freeze for those in the public sector could save the UK up to £23 billion, which would help plug the hole in public finances created by the pandemic. If the NHS was excluded from the cap, the CPS said that would still save £15 billion over the three years.
CPS director, Robert Colvile, said, “The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been severe but the pain has not been shared equally.
“Healthcare workers aside, it is difficult to justify generous pay rises in the public sector when private sector wages are actually falling.
“At the same time, there is a need to control public spending and reduce the structural deficit which the pandemic is likely to have opened up.”
‘Insulting to public sector workers’
The Unite trade union said that it seemed like the CPS was being used as an “outrider,” ahead of Sunaks statement next week.
Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said, “The CPS analysis is insulting to those public sector workers that have underpinned the fabric of society during this continuing pandemic.
“In the spring, the Prime Minister was praising NHS staff for saving his life.
“Now, in the autumn, he needs to ensure that his Chancellor turns those warm words into hard cash for those that ensure the efficient running of the NHS, schools and colleges, and the myriad of services provided on a daily basis by local councils.”
‘Cruel to NHS staff’
Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, described the pay cap as a “cruel body blow” to NHS staff not on the frontline.
He said, “Key workers across all public services remain at the heart of the fight against Covid.
“The government must do what’s right next week and announce the wage rise all staff have more than earned. Anything less risks destroying morale when the entire country is counting on them.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to comment on whether he had pushed for health workers to be exempt from the pay freeze.
Hancock told the BBC that though he “will always fight for the NHS… there’s an incredibly tough economic situation as well.”