The government has recommended a 3.5% pay increase for public sector workers in England.
Yesterday (21 February) various government departments published their recommendations for the 2023-2024 pay round, which will now be considered by independent pay review bodies.
The pay review bodies can suggest a higher settlement, but the final decision will be down to the government.
The proposed 3.5% pay increase covers workers including police officers, teachers, judges, nurses, doctors and dentists, many of whom have voted to strike recently over the award they received in the current pay round. Most public sector workers received a 5% pay rise this year.
Inflation remains near a 40-year high, with the consumer prices index (CPI) measure running at 10.1% in January 2023.
Public sector pay 2023-24
In its proposal to the NHS pay review body (NHSPRB), the Department of Health and Social Care said pay rises above government affordability could affect its ability to deliver on key priorities and manifesto commitments.
“It is therefore essential that during this challenging fiscal and economic climate, pay remains fair, which recognises the vital importance of NHS staff, but affordable and minimises inflationary pressures and managing the country’s debt,” it said. “We urge NHSPRB to carefully consider this important balance when reaching your recommendations.”
The Home Office’s evidence to the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) echoed this, stating that higher pay awards could exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis.
It said: “It is important to note that public sector pay awards that are significantly above the private sector could contribute to risks of higher and more persistent inflation, by placing pressure on other parts of the economy to demand higher wages. This may require the Bank of England to raise interest rates even further.
“The overall public sector remuneration package remains competitive, when taking account of pay, pensions and wider benefits including job security.”
The pay review bodies are expected to make their recommendations in April.
Sara Gorton, head of health at public sector workers’ union Unison said: “If the government was actively trying to worsen the crisis in the NHS, it couldn’t have done better than this.
“Vacancies are at an all-time high and this pitiful pay suggestion does nothing to solve the growing staffing emergency. The Scottish government has already offered significantly more to its NHS workers. Worse still it could prove the final straw for staff already questioning their future in the NHS. If more leave, the outlook for patient care is beyond grim.”
The Scottish government has recommended an average pay uplift of at least 6.5% for NHS workers.
Nurses strikes scheduled for 1 to 3 March have been suspended after the health secretary said he would meet for pay talks.
The GMB union called the suggested 3.5% pay offer a “disgrace” that would do nothing to prevent further industrial action.
Rachel Harrison, GMB’s national secretary, said: “Ambulance workers – and others across the NHS including cleaners, porters and care workers – who are the backbone of the health service deserve better.
“Ministers have no intentions of recognising the true value of the entire workforce.”
Unite dismissed the proposal as a “sick joke”, with general secretary Sharon Graham suggesting it would “only accelerate a Spring of NHS strikes”.