Myths and realities of public sector pay hikes

George Binette says less than a quarter of workers will benefit, while Vic Rayner decries the fact that care home staff have been forgotten and Angela Pickering believes the headlines are just government spin. Plus Marc Boix Codony, a consultant neurologist, is clear where the money should go – and it’s not to him

Much of the coverage on Tuesday (Coronavirus: almost 900,000 public sector workers to get pay rise, says Sunak, 21 July) suggested that public sector workers were to benefit from Rishi Sunak’s largesse, but the headlines conveyed a misleading picture. In fact, less than a quarter of some 4.4 million public sector employees are affected by the announcement, which simply accepts the recommendations of independent pay review bodies. The modest increases come after nearly a decade of real-term pay cuts, which have eroded the value of salaries among large sections of the workforce by more than 20% since 2010.

While some teachers will see their salaries rise by more than 3%, the typical figure will be closer to 2.5%, with schools obliged to finance increases from overstretched budgets. Hospital doctors will receive salary increases, but there is no new money for other direct NHS employees, including those nurses covered by an Agenda for Change settlement dating from 2018. Those staff at the top of their grades are likely to see no increase this year.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ancillary staff, outsourced from the NHS and employed by the likes of ISS and Serco, will derive no benefit whatsoever from the chancellor’s announcement.

This is the reality facing so many across the NHS as a result of years of inadequate funding and the race to the bottom in terms of conditions for cleaners, porters and catering staff, fuelled by large-scale privatisation.
George Binette
Labour trade union liaison officer, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

• It is unacceptable for the government to sidestep the issue of social care workers’ pay. Care workers have been stalwarts of the Covid-19 frontline. Our professional care home staff have continued to provide care under the most challenging of circumstances.

They have done this with compassion, providing a lifeline for the most vulnerable. This has never been a low-skilled job, and should never again be consigned as a low-paid role. We need the government to act now to ensure that each and every care worker is rewarded for their extraordinary work.
Vic Rayner
Executive director, National Care Forum

• I was pleased to see the Guardian’s informed approach to reporting the government’s plans for a future public sector pay squeeze (Rishi Sunak warns public sector workers of new pay squeeze, 21 July). Perhaps we need equally clear-sighted analysis of the much-heralded above-inflation package for frontline public sector workers. Nurses will be excluded, as they negotiated a separate deal in 2018, and junior doctors because they agreed a pay deal last year.

Yet more spin and obfuscation from this government, which shows an underlying contempt for those who put their lives on the line.
Dr Angela Pickering

• The chancellor has announced that senior doctors’ pay will rise about 3% due to their “vital contribution”. I am a consultant neurologist. My salary already borders £95,000 a year. My duty, my goal in life is to look after the sick, and I would do it for less.

I don’t need a pay rise – I need hospital beds, I need enough staff in the wards, I need appropriate social care so patients can return home safely, I need my patients to be able to afford a bus fare to come to clinics. Don’t give us this money, give it to the underpaid carers, cleaners, community services and overstretched councils. This would be a true vital contribution to the UK.
Dr Marc Boix Codony


The GuardianTramp

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