COVID-19: unions’ anger over possible two-year pay freeze for public sector workers

Proposal in leaked Treasury document is ‘the exact opposite of what’s expected and deserved’

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A possible two-year public sector pay freeze would be ‘a slap in the face’ for nurses and other key workers, unions have said. 

They reacted angrily to a leaked Treasury document that proposes the move as part of measures to meet the economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the confidential document discussed possible ways to foot the UK’s bill – currently estimated at £337 billion this year – including an increase in income tax and a two-year public sector pay freeze.

Pay rise... then pay freeze?

The proposal comes after nurses in England recently received their third and final annual pay rise from the three-year deal agreed in 2018.

Pay increased by 1.7% from 2020-21, and was implemented by Agenda for Change nurses’ wage packets and backdated to 1 April.

RCN speaks out against proposal

Responding to the possible pay freeze, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘This proposal is the exact opposite of what’s expected and deserved and, if pursued, will outrage nursing professionals and the public alike.

‘We will make sure no government forgets the professionalism demonstrated by all nursing staff during this pandemic and before it.’

‘Public service workers deserve proper recognition’

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that, throughout the lockdown, the NHS and other essential workers had kept services running and should be rewarded for those efforts.

‘Public service workers deserve proper recognition for these efforts, and the government should work with unions and employers to agree a handsome pay rise,’ he added.

‘Anything less would be a slap in the face to all of those we applaud each week.’

The Treasury declined to comment on the leaked document, but it is understood to be one of many being put together by different teams to discuss ideas about future policy.

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