The UK government has sparked controversy by proposing a below-inflation pay increase for millions of public sector workers, including judges, police officers, teachers, nurses, doctors and dentists in England.
The government is suggesting a modest 3.5% pay rise, which would be below the current rate of inflation, but argues that a pay increase above 5% would fuel inflation further.
The proposal comes after public sector workers held strike action last year, rejecting the government’s previous pay deal.
While the government’s independent pay review bodies will now consider the recommendations, many workers are already unhappy with the proposal, with the GMB union labelling the offer a “disgrace”.
In an effort to ease the tensions, the Royal College of Nursing has called off a 48-hour strike in England to restart talks with the government following the new pay recommendations.
However, the National Education Union is continuing to urge teachers to strike next week across the North of England, despite the Education Secretary’s appeal to call off the strikes.
Some public sector workers are unhappy with the proposed pay increases, particularly given that vacancies in the NHS have reached an all-time high.
The GMB union’s national secretary, Rachel Harrison, says that the proposal “shows this government’s true colours”, and accused the government of undervaluing the entire workforce.
The head of health at the union Unison, Sara Gorton, called the offer “pitiful” and argued that it does nothing to solve the growing staffing crisis in the NHS.
While the government says that it is offering an affordable increase, many independent pay review bodies are likely to recommend a higher rise, and the situation is likely to become increasingly contentious in the coming weeks.
Despite the government’s efforts to present the proposal as a reasonable compromise, it remains to be seen whether public sector workers will be satisfied with the offer, or whether further strike action may be necessary to secure a fairer deal.