Magazine article Public Finance

Unions Cynical about Three-Year Fixed Pay Deals

Magazine article Public Finance

Unions Cynical about Three-Year Fixed Pay Deals

Article excerpt

Union chiefs this week warned that clashes were inevitable if the government sticks to its guns in pushing through below-inflation fixed pay deals.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling began their New Year offensive by proposing that three-year pay settlements, already in train for some public servants, should be rolled out further as a bulwark against inflation.

There is already voluble opposition to the prime minister's 2% public sector pay cap, and a continuing dispute with police, who are angered at the government's refusal to backdate their pay rise as recommended by a review body.

Unions warned that fixed pay settlements were unlikely to be accepted unless they were accompanied by substantial increases.

As Public Finance went to press, the largest public sector union, Unison, was due to hold a summit on January 10 to draw up tactics to tackle the pay curbs. A spokeswoman told PF that the union was 'very, very dubious' about three-year deals.

'We're not ideologically opposed, but it all depends on the money on offer. If it is being used as a means to cut pay, that's just not acceptable... We can't have a situation where public sector workers receive below-inflation rises,' she said.

Senior Trades Union Congress officials are to meet on January 14 to discuss public sector issues and their approach to the three-year pay plan.

General secretary Brendan Barber maintained that fixed pay deals were acceptable in principle, but added: 'Public servants will be asking: where's the beef?

'Reactions will critically depend on the terms on offer and whether the government will give people real confidence that their living standards will be protected. Confidence badly needs to be rebuilt after last year's railroading through of below-inflation rises and the undermining of independent pay review bodies'

Brown stated that fixed pay deals for workers such as teachers and nurses would help to control inflation and make it easier to plan for the long term.

'What people around the country want is certainty moving forward, greater stability in their family finances and the knowledge that they have a longer-term pay settlement that can meet their bills,' he said. …

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