Magazine article Public Finance

Public Sector Unions Prepare to Fight Pay Limits

Magazine article Public Finance

Public Sector Unions Prepare to Fight Pay Limits

Article excerpt

Public sector staff are set to intensify their opposition to the government's reform and pay agendas, in defiance of stern warnings from the prime minister and chancellor this week that they will not halt the pace of change.

Hundreds of thousands of civil servants are likely to vent their opposition to Chancellor Gordon Brown's new 2% pay ceiling in the coming months, amid accusations that the Treasury delayed deals this year to ensure they were covered by the new restrictions.

Union leaders gathered at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton this week warned that they were planning a compendium of strikes and campaign days to undermine the government s privatisation and public service modernisation plans.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants, told Public Finance that around 200 civil service pay bargaining units must use Browns new 2% remit as the basis for their 2006 agreements - immediately exposing many low-paid staff to below-inflation deals for the foreseeable future. The current CPI and R-PI inflation measurements are 2.4% and 3.3% respectively.

A PCS analysis of the 2006 pay round, seen by PF, claims that just 24 bargaining units - which represent either core departmental staff or sub-groups of departments, such as Whitehall agencies are currently covered by deals that stretch into 2007. Eight further units have, however, received initial pay offers, while pay remits for eight other units have been cleared by the Treasury.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told PP. 'We have around 200 pay deals outstanding and many are being blocked by the chancellor and the Treasury. That will only serve to embed low pay across the sector.'

While the median income for the civil service is £22,150 for men and £17,510 for women, the PCS claims that a quarter of all , civil servants earn below £15,340, and over ' half less than £19,200.

The departments that have yet to conclude their 2006 deals include the Ministry of Defence, Prison Service and Education and Skills. Staff have accused the MoD in particular of dragging its heels over a final offer.

Speaking in Brighton this week, Serwotka said that the pay restrictions in the public sector had been forced upon staff as part of the government s efficiency and modernisation programme, which also includes further plans to privatise services.

Key health, education, transport and criminal justice unions joined the PCS and a small group of ex-ministers, such as former health secretary Frank Dobson - in calling for renewed action to halt privatisation and government plans to use voluntary organisations to deliver services. …

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