Pay restraint for public sector staff including NHS workers will continue into the next parliament, chancellor George Osborne told MPs yesterday.
Delivering his autumn statement in the Commons, Mr Osborne revealed the coalition government’s restraint on public sector pay was expected to have delivered £12bn by the end of the current parliament.
Under the approach, NHS staff had their pay frozen for two years from 2011, then received a 1% rise for 2013-14.
For 2014-15 the government decided there would be a 1% rise only for those not eligible for an incremental pay increase, despite a recommendation by the independent NHS Pay Review Body of 1% across the board.
“Without paying nurses a fair wage for the work they do, the government is devaluing their work”
Mr Osborne said the government’s approach to public sector pay restraint would be repeated in the next parliament to deliver a “commensurate amount” of savings.
Documents published by the Treasury yesterday afternoon said: “Public sector pay restraint in this parliament is expected to save an estimated £12bn by 2014-15. The government will need to continue to reform, and take tough decisions on, public sector pay while it continues to reduce the current budget deficit until 2017-18, and would expect to deliver commensurate savings.”
The Department of Health’s decision about pay for 2014-15 has sparked a pay dispute with unions, which have already held two four-hour walkouts and a week of “work to rule”.
In a joint statement, issued ahead of the autumn statement, NHS unions called for talks to bring an end to the dispute. It said: “Since 2010, NHS staff have had a 15% cost of living cut to the value of their pay; some have lost significantly more through cuts to other elements of pay.”
The statement added: “With a further £2bn promised by the chancellor for the NHS for front line staff and services, trade unions are calling on the government to use some of this money to resolve the ongoing pay dispute.
“It is in patients’ interest to have staff who feel motivated and fairly rewarded rather than being pushed into taking industrial action because the government won’t negotiate with unions,” it said. “Without this the NHS faces more disruption into the new year and beyond.”
Responding after the autumn statement, Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing described the Chancellor’s words on pay as a “further blow to hard-pressed, demoralised staff”.
“The UK’s nursing staff are working flat-out to keep the health service going under extraordinary pressure,” he said. “They work long hours caring for the vulnerable, and have endured five years without cost of living increases.
“The prospect of this continuing for year upon year is an insult to hard working nursing staff and raises serious concerns about the UK’s ability to employ the staff it needs in the long term to meet the level of demand the NHS faces,” he said.
“Without paying nurses a fair wage for the work they do, the government is devaluing their work,” he added.