News

05.09.17

Rumoured public sector pay cap lift ‘must also make up for lost earnings’

Any government commitment to lifting the public sector pay cap must also include an effort to make up for lost earnings, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said amidst reports that the prime minister is considering scrapping the controversial policy.

This week, national press cited anonymous senior sources that claimed key departments were at odds over plans to lift the cap – but the PM’s official spokeswoman suggested the long-awaited 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.”

Today’s news follow suggestions from health secretary Jeremy Hunt back in June that he would “reflect back” conversations held with NHS staff to the chancellor before any decisions were made with regards to the pay freeze – although nothing else was said of that since.

Janet Davies, CEO and general secretary of the RCN, argued that if these fresh claims are true, this would represent “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,” she added.

“If the government does scrap the cap then industrial action is on the table. Nursing pay has fallen by 14% in real-terms since 2010, now worth £3,000 each year.”

The royal college has been fighting the pay cap relentlessly in the past few months as part of what it called a ‘summer of protest’, which looks set to continue lest the government changes its mind at the upcoming Conservative Party conference or in the Autumn Budget.

“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,” revealed Davies.

(Top image c. Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)

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