Workers in a government call centre (Photo by Richard Pohle/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
All public sector workers deserve a pay rise – including backroom staff
The cabinet may be divided, but public sector workers shouldn’t be.
Having learned the hard way that cutting public sector pay is unpopular with voters, Conservative cabinet ministers are finally changing their tune.
In the last few days, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Justine Greening have all spoken out against the cap. Recent polling shows that 80% of voters — including 68% per cent of Conservative voters — want an end to the 1% cap.
But it’s not enough to make a showy about-turn when you know the public supports it. These high-profile interventions must be followed with action that benefits all public sector workers, not just those cherry-picked by the Conservatives.
The tragic events of the last few months have shown the dedication of firefighters, police officers, nurses and other emergency services staff. They have all had their pay cut, in real terms, over the last seven years.
We should push for those workers to get a long-overdue pay rise. But it shouldn’t stop there. The government has hinted that it plans to ease the pay restrictions on a select group of frontline workers, while leaving many more out in the cold.
We should resist the artificial division between frontline public sector workers and the backroom staff they rely upon.
The firefighters, police officers and paramedics who rush to the scenes of major incidents rely on a range of control staff, who take emergency 999 calls, find out details of incidents, and despatch teams to emergencies. Without their support the frontline would not be able to respond when needed.
And it’s not restricted to the emergency services. Across the board, backroom workers keep our public services going. They are a vital part of the public sector, and must not be ignored when it comes to reviewing pay.
There are also hints that the government might try to limit pay increases to workers on the lowest end of the pay scale, or those below the median income level. This would mean that workers who are just above this level, and who are also struggling to get by, would miss out on a fair pay rise because of an arbitrary cut-off point.
Median full-time income was £28,200 in 2016. A pay rise for public sector workers at or below that level would exclude a band 5 Nurse (£28,746), a band 6 Midwife (£35,577), a competent firefighter (£29,638) and a police constable with two years’ service (28,584). These are hard-working public servants who don’t deserve to see their take-home pay fall.
Any division of the public sector is artificial because public services are team efforts. All members of staff, high or low paid, frontline or backroom rely upon each other to deliver the services we all rely upon.
It is essential that the government recognise that, and deliver the pay rise they all deserve.
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