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05.09.17

‘Concrete action’ better than unnamed promises over public sector pay lift

The FDA union has called on the government to take “concrete action” to end the controversial public sector pay cap after senior Whitehall sources hinted at the possibility of the policy being dropped.

This week, national press cited anonymous senior sources that claimed key departments were at odds over plans to lift the cap – but the prime minister’s official spokeswoman suggested the change may be on the horizon.

“We know a number of people in the public and private sectors feel like they are just about managing, and we recognise the sacrifice they are making,” she said. “But there is a process in place and I can’t pre-empt the process.”

Unnamed sources, however, said the Cabinet Office and the Treasury were at odds over details of proposals to relax the ceiling on salaries of nurses, doctors, teachers, armed personnel and other public sector workers.

National papers claimed an “informed source” said Treasury officials were willing to lift the cap for a select number of civil servants, but suspected that the Cabinet Office had allegedly tried to force the government to undo the divisive policy by leaking a story to the Sun – which said an announcement on the pay cap would come as part of the Autumn Budget.

The story also came at an opportune time, with the Treasury due to send out annual guidance letters to public sector pay review bodies concerning next year’s pay round.

“The leak looked as if it has been timed to put pressure upon the Treasury,” the informed source said. “Remit letters are overdue so they need to make some kind of decision. All agree that any lifting of the cap should be on a case-by-case basis, not general. But the details have not been agreed and the Treasury, as ever, is urging caution.”

While the FDA welcomed the latest reports that ministers are considering a “long overdue” end to the cap, which has been at the centre of much controversy and strike threats in recent months, it stressed that anonymous sources “mean nothing without concrete action”.

“With nearly a third of our members considering leaving their post as soon as possible, we urgently need a new settlement to ensure Britain has the strong civil service it needs to tackle the unprecedented challenges facing us in the years ahead,” added the union’s general secretary, Dave Penman.

“While lifting the pay cap would be a great start, we hope these reports can lead to a more open dialogue about pay reform that gives departments greater freedom to pay market rates for the skills our civil service needs.”

It is also vital that the Civil Service be properly resourced in order to deliver an agreeable Brexit for all industries and sectors – “and that means we must be able to have grown-up conversations about pay without the 1% straightjacket”, stated the union, which represents senior public servants and professionals.

Janet Davies, the general secretary and CEO of the Royal College of Nursing, which has been fighting the pay cap relentlessly in the past few months, said that if these anonymous reports are true, it would “be significant progress and a sign that the government is listening to our campaign”.

“But any offer from the PM or Treasury needs to not only scrap the pay cap for future years but go some way towards making up for lost earnings,” said Davies. “If the government does not scrap the cap then industrial action is on the table.

Thousands of nurses will be demonstrating outside Parliament this Wednesday to ensure ministers are left in no doubt about the strength of feeling in the profession.”

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