Gordon Brown’s three-year pay deal for the public sector threatens to demoralise staff

Gordon Brown’s public sector pay deal could demoralise workforces across the public sector if it is too low, policing bodies have warned.

The prime minister revealed plans to implement three-year pay deals rather than the traditional 12-month agreements at his monthly media conference yesterday. He said it would help to set the inflation target.

But the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, which represents all chief officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the government needs to get its judgement “exactly right” if it is to be trusted.

“To make a system of three-year settlements work, the government has to get its judgement exactly right. Too low and there is the prospect of demoralised workforces across the public sector, with attendant recruiting and retention problems.

“Set the level too high and inflation will be fuelled and budgetary problems for local police authorities will actually increase,” chairman Tim Brain said.

Brown indicated he wanted to cap public sector pay awards to within 2% a year, as this was the expected inflation level at the end of 2008.

But unions were yesterday furious at the multi-year pay deal announcement, claiming it made a “mockery” of current pay negotiating systems.

Towards the end of 2007, police were already locked in a bitter pay row with home secretary Jacqui Smith, who refused to backdate their pay to 1 September 2007. This effectively gave police officers a 1.9% rise in pay, rather than the expected 2.5%.

The Police Federation, itself staging a rally on 23 January in central London for officers over pay, yesterday said a “one-size-fits-all” approach would be unfair to officers.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which represents all rank and file officers, warned the government needs to restore confidence in the process for arriving at a fair annual pay increase for police officers, although it accepted a multi-year pay settlement “may offer the potential for stability and security”.

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