Boris Johnson sparks fury over plans to ‘freeze 4million workers’ pay’
Boris Johnson visiting a school – now he could cut teachers’ wages (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Boris Johnson faces a furious backlash after his Chancellor drew up plans to freeze 4million workers’ pay next year.
Unions branded the plans for 2021/22 an “insult” that will destroy morale while Britain is still battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Rishi Sunak is widely expected to announce the plan – a real-term cut once inflation is included – in next Wednesday’s spending review.
It would include teachers, Armed Forces, police, Whitehall civil servants, council and government agency staff – but NHS staff are said to be exempt.
Treasury sources last night failed to deny the plan, and said it would be “unfair” to let public pay rise more than the private sector.
Yet millions of public sector workers are still recovering from seven years of pay freezes and caps under Tory austerity.
Unions warned the plan would be an 'insult'
(Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)
Pay was frozen completely for two years from 2011 and 2012, followed by five years of meagre pay rises capped at 1%.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A pay freeze would be a bitter pill for care workers, refuse collectors, emergency workers and all the key workers in the public sector who have helped keep the country going through this pandemic.
“Freezing their pay is no way to reward key workers for their service. Unions will fight for the proper pay rise they have earned.
“Working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Key workers across all public services remain at the heart of the fight against Covid.
5m public sector workers 'face pay freeze' to plug Covid-19 budget black hole
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“Reports of pay restraint for all but frontline NHS staff would be a cruel body blow to other health, care and public service employees working tirelessly to get us through the pandemic.
“It would also backfire badly with the public. 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."
Prospect union general secretary Mike Clancy said: "After a decade of pay austerity in the public sector which has seen pay increases lag behind inflation and the private sector, a further pay freeze across the public sector will be seen as an insult and have a devastating impact.
“At a time when the economy urgently needs demand and a level of confidence, to arbitrarily rule out even modest increases is economically illiterate.
Rishi Sunak has warned there must be 'parity' between public and private sector pay
(Image: Getty Images)
“Whether it is responding to the pandemic or dealing with the challenges of Brexit, our members' work in the public sector has never been more important.”
The UK has 5.5million public sector workers, of which just under 1.8million work in the NHS, according to official statistics.
Mr Sunak originally sparked fears of a raid on public sector pay in July when he launched the spending review.
At the time, he warned public sector pay would need to keep "parity" with private sector wages – which were feared to have tumbled in the pandemic.
The Chancellor wrote at the time: "In the interest of fairness we must exercise restraint in future public sector pay awards, ensuring that, across this year and the spending review period, public sector pay levels retain parity with the private sector".
At that point the spending review was set to last four years but it has since been cut back to one year, covering Whitehall budgets only for 2021/22.
Precise pay rises are set as part of discussions with review bodies.
But the broad envelope of what Whitehall departments can spend overall next year looks set to be outlined as part of the spending review next Wednesday.
Public sector debt hit £2.08trillion by the end of October and is now 100.8% of GDP – a ratio unseen since the early 1960s.
Mr Sunak said today: “We've provided over £200billion of support to protect the economy, lives and livelihoods from the significant and far-reaching impacts of coronavirus.
“This is the responsible thing to do, but it's also clear that over time it's right we ensure the public finances are put on a sustainable path."