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What’s on your Christmas list – a higher salary?


What is your position on Christmas? Are you going to spend too much on presents, have another mince pie, maybe a glass of wine or two and get back into the gym after New Year, assuming you can see your feet to tie your unused trainers?

Do you think to yourself, it’s been a hard year - let’s treat ourselves, make sure everyone feels spoiled and loved and maybe we will sing some songs around the piano? Not that we can play the piano. Shall we buy a piano? Put it on the list. And a banjo. Why not?

Or are you sensible? Limiting present shopping to a budget of £15 and sharing a family bag of Snickers? Ever pragmatic, mindful that jobs are at risk and we are, lest we forget, “all in this together”.

My wife says we should be in group B but we are so in group A. Even down to looking for a banjo. Every year, we say “let’s go easy at Christmas” and every year we are still paying for Christmas in June. And I don’t really care.

‘Without Christmas, capitalism would be not be the roaring success it clearly is. But I prefer to think of Christmas as a festival of love and a really good chance to play Twister’

Of course, it is possible to think of Christmas as a trick. I was at a market recently where people were selling tastefully painted wire animals for £40. Without Christmas, capitalism would be in a right old mess, as opposed to being the roaring, life enhancing success it clearly is.

But I prefer to think of Christmas as a festival of love and a really good chance to play Twister. And yes, I know that some of you will be working and I thank you for that but, hopefully, you might have some fun and when you get home and celebrate the good things - family, doing some good and Mamma Mia! on the telly.

Most of us will have enough to get by. None of us is ever going to be rich but being rich never mattered enough for us to chase, did it? Which is why we came into public services.

I thought the Hutton pay review that suggested we limit the highest pay in public services was quite interesting. My first reaction was “why can’t people in the public sector earn the same as people in the private sector?” But beyond that I like the fact that, underneath the current reframing of public sector work, Mr Hutton observes the need for a link between the pay of the public servant and their potential to serve the public.

I think that is logical. Indeed, it could enable us to revalue the work being done by clinicians - because it is clinicians who are most clearly serving the public, isn’t it?

Public sector pay is skewed by the high salaries given to people doing jobs that lots of people can do - communications officers, chief executives, project managers. The rare talents - a brilliant Macmillan nurse, for example, or a top surgeon - deserve high salaries because the link to public service is clear and transparent.

I have long believed that administrators exist to service clinical practice. Organise pay to mirror that fact and we would at once make sense of public service pay. This might also enable nurses to buy banjos should they want to. Have a lovely Christmas.

Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, University of Brighton, and author of Gabriel’s Angel


Readers' comments (2)

  • It's the public we have to convince because they seem to think ALL public sector workers earn too much and enjoy too many perks!!!

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  • Anonymous | 11-Dec-2010 11:51 am, then we should remove those services such as Nursing through strikes, and see how long the general public still think like that when they realise how much they rely on us?!!

    And Mark, I personally think wether it is in the public or the private sector, pay should be linked to the inherent importance of the job. I mean saving lives is inherently more important than shuffling paperwork behind a desk. Nurses for example, alongside Doctors, Teachers, Police, the Military, Firefighters, etc, are ESSENTIAL to our society. We so called 'public servants' look after the sick, save lives, protect civilians both domestically and abroad, teach and look after children, etc etc. The country, and society, would not last five minutes without us.

    In comparison there are the middle managers, the bankers, the office workers and the drones, those who simply serve to keep the endless machine of capitalism chugging along. There are those such as politicians and others such as 'celebrities' or footballers who seem to get paid vast amounts for doing what actually amounts to nothing at all.

    I am not dismissing or degrading these jobs in any way shape or form, those people are still earning a living, yet pay levels, respect, etc seem to be skewed heavily in favour of the latter group. Those of us who have a 'vocation', a 'calling', always seem to get the rougher deal when it comes to pay. Yet we are the ones everyone turns to when the proverbial hits.

    Personally I think pay levels should reflect that. It is the Nurses, Police, Teachers, Doctors, Firefighters, etc etc, who should be getting the larger salaries. At the end of the day it isn't right that a binman or an office worker can earn almost as much, if not as much, as a Nurse.

    As for Christmas? By all means go out and treat yourself if you can, spend as much time with friends and family as possible and just relax and enjoy yourselves. You've earned it and life is far too short not to. If you are working, then thank you and good luck for a peaceful shift! Know at least some people appreciate you all for what you do, even though it doesn't feel like that sometimes. And remeber also that you have friends, family or loved ones, even if it is just a spoiled cat and a rerun of eric and ernie, waiting for you at home when your shift ends. So put some extra cranberry sauce and turkey on your plates, enjoy the reruns of Only Fools and Eric and Ernie, and happy Christmas!

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