Pay better salaries or expect a mass departure of essential workers

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Union leaders warned on Sunday that unless millions of public sector employees receive wage raises that in the least matches the spiralling inflation rate, civil service, schools and hospitals will face a mass exodus of vital personnel.

As the cost of living problem worsens, the prospect of bitter and long pay conflicts seems imminent after the spring statement from chancellor Rishi Sunak last week provided no new money to public services.

Sunak’s net approval rating has plunged to an all-time low of minus 4 points (down 15 points from two weeks ago), according to Opinium’s latest poll. The likelihood of pay disputes with the public sector is another major worry for Sunak. Before this week, 7 was his lowest net approval.

Unison, the largest union of the country, which represents education, health service and other public-sector workers, stated last night that unless members get “inflation-busting” raises, they will quit for better-paying jobs in the private sector.

Unison will provide proof to the NHS pay review board on Tuesday, and will also highlight this week how numerous high-street enterprises, such as coffee shops, supermarkets and logistics services, are among those giving earnings that are greater than the NHS’s lowest hourly rates.

The NASUWT, one of the largest teaching unions, has already submitted information to its pay review board pushing for a multi-year pay award for teachers, beginning in September this year with a 12% increase.

According to the union, below-inflation awards and multiple years of pay freezes have resulted in a 19 percent real-terms wage reduction for teachers since 2010.

According to official data analysed by the TUC, average real-terms salary in the public sector was down £81 per month in January 2022 compared to the previous year.

Furthermore, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) spring update, average real pay for all workers (public and private sectors) is expected to shrink by 2% in 2022.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told the Observer that public sector staff had toiled “through the most intense days of their working lives” during the pandemic, laying the groundwork for a clash with the government.

We’ve been holding meetings with the workers of the public sector with their MPs, she continued. Many of them were unable to hold back tears as they spoke about how difficult it has been at work and at home in order to make ends meet.

They were now at a tipping point, which posed a threat to the entire nation.  Many public sector workers in areas such as social care, education and health, say they don’t know how much longer they can take it. It will be the final straw if they do not receive a reasonable wage raise and assist in the reduction in workloads. A huge exodus would reverberate across every community, as well as harming our economy. Ministers need to be alive to this danger. They cannot let this happen.