Health unions have responded angrily to suggestions the government could introduce regional pay for public sector workers including nurses and midwives.
The fierce reaction follows media reports chancellor Philip Hammond could include controversial plans for regional and performance-related pay in next week’s autumn budget statement.
“Regional pay is a discredited cul-de-sac and we urge the government not to go down it”
According to The Daily Telegraph, the chancellor is keen to take a more “targeted” approach to public sector pay following the abolition of the 1% pay cap earlier this year.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss is reported to have told the cabinet that outside London and the South East, public sector pay is far more “competitive” with the private sector and suggested staff in those regions should receive lower pay rises.
She also suggested pay should be tied to performance with any rises “accompanied by reforms that make the public sector more efficient”, reported the Telegraph.
“Regional pay in the public sector will create a postcode lottery”
The Royal College of Midwives was among unions warning that bringing an end to blanket pay rises was unfair and would make life harder for midwives, nurses and other public sector workers already struggling to make ends meet.
“Regional pay is a discredited cul-de-sac and we urge the government not to go down it. It hurts the NHS which faces a huge crisis with a shortage of midwives and other clinical staff,” said Jon Skewes, director for external relations at the RCM.
“Regional pay would simply make that worse and would see regions already struggling to recruit facing even more problems in getting the staff they need,” he said.
Unite also hit out at the idea, claiming any plans for regional pay were “unfair and discriminatory”.
“Public sector workers are increasingly struggling to make ends meet as pay increases still lag far behind inflation and are failing to meet rising living costs,” said assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail.
She said: “As well as being blatantly unfair, regional pay ignores the reality of the real challenge to recruit and retain staff. Workers must be paid the rate for the job regardless of where they work.”
When it came to performance-related pay, she said this concept had also been “thoroughly discredited for creating major problems in sectors such as banking.”
“Its introduction to the public sector would only make a bad situation worse,” she added.
Majority of public believe NHS short of nurses and back better pay
The GMB union said regional pay would create a “postcode lottery” that would mean public sector workers would be forced to leave poorer areas to keep the same salary.
It highlighted the fact the NHS pay review body had examined the concept in 2012 but concluded there was not enough evidence to justify such a step.
“Regional pay in the public sector will create a postcode lottery – people should be paid for the job they do and skills and experience they have – not where they live,” said GMB national secretary Rehana Azam.
“It isn’t fair or practical and will weaken public services and lead to a talent drain from poorer areas,” she said.
Meanwhile, she stated that performance-related pay in the public sector “just does not work”.
“How do you judge it? A paramedic who saves the most lives? It doesn’t make sense,” she added.