READER LETTER: Our public workers deserve better pay

The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

We are writing to you following the recent General Election campaign and against the backdrop of what is now a well-overdue debate on the future of public sector pay.

Unison is the biggest union in the UK representing 1.3m public sector workers, 80,000 of which work in the eastern region. We represent members throughout the public sector, as well as those working for private sector employers who are commissioned to deliver public services.

There is a growing concern among Unison members about a further squeeze on living standards this year, as rising inflation outpaces incomes.

Inflation – as measured by the Consumer Prices Index Housing (CPIH) – was 2.7 per cent in June, up from 0.8 per cent in June 2016.

Inflation measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) – the measure of inflation in the economy as a whole and the traditional yardstick for pay determination – has risen to 3.7 per cent.

Since 2010, public sector pay has diminished in value, after pay freezes in 2011 and 2012, and a one per cent annual growth cap ever since.

Our members are now left questioning how will they manage their finances to meet the rising costs of living.

You simply cannot reduce public sector pay in relative terms indefinitely without devastating consequences for workers in the sector.

This is especially the case when, over the same period, pay in the private sector has improved, percentage annual increases are now running at 2.1 per cent – more than twice the rate of public sector increases.

Even if you are not with us on the moral and political arguments over public sector pay, we would invite you to agree that further depression of public sector pay creates more difficulty in attracting and retaining staff. This applies across all grades in all sectors, including those not covered by pay review bodies, like our members who work in local government.

Quality public services require highly-skilled individuals who are motivated and feel valued for the contributions that they make.

Our members increasingly know that the public sector pay cap is not an economic inevitability, but a political choice.

They now look to the Government to recognise the strength of their feeling and to appreciate the support they now enjoy with the wider public. If there was ever a time to change priorities, that time has arrived.

I know you understand that our members provide the services that hold our communities together, helping to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.

They are the professionals who intervene when things go wrong and, as we have seen of late, they are always with us in times of emergency.

On behalf of our public sector workers, who both live and work in your constituency, we are asking you to support lifting the public sector pay cap by asking the Government to change direction so that public sector workers can have a fair pay rise, one they so rightly deserve.

Chris Jenkinson

Regional secretary
Unison

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