Following his Summer Economic Statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise. The Treasury said the money for the pay increases of up to 3.1% would come from existing departmental budgets, with the highest increases for doctors and teachers.
Mr Sunak said: “These past months have underlined what we always knew, that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them. It’s right, therefore, that we follow the recommendations of the independent pay bodies with this set of real-terms pay rises.”
Although good news, the pay increases fell short of the mark for many. Labour said the rise would not make up for years of real-terms cuts, and the British Medical Association said doctors had hoped for “far better”. Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds observed that the Conservatives had frozen public sector pay for seven years, and the rises they introduced after that failed to plug the gap.
More than 300 NHS workers have died in England alone after contracting coronavirus, many doing so while caring for patients. Dr David Wrigley, vice-chairman of the British Medical Association, said doctors would feel “disappointed and let down” by the announcement. He commented: “These are the sort of rises we’d expect to see in normal times, not in a time when many of us have not had a day off in six months and have been putting our lives on the line.”
The news came after France announced pay rises worth £7.2bn for its healthcare workers following government disputes with unions and public protests. There has been pressure in the UK to recognise the contribution of frontline workers beyond displays of public appreciation, however the government is facing a major funds deficit. Many other public sector workers, including those working on the front line in social care, are excluded from the pay rise as the Tories haven’t fulfilled their promise to boost local authority funding.
It was also recently reported that the Conservatives have used their 78-seat majority to vote down an amendment designed to protect the NHS in a future post-Brexit trade deal. The amendment was put forward by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and supported by Labour leader Keir Starmer. It sought to protect publically funded health and care services from foreign control, but was voted down by a margin of 340 to 241.
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