Furious union leaders have claimed government plans for a three-year pay deal in the public sector make a “mockery” of bargaining procedures.
Prime minister Gordon Brown revealed plans to implement three-year pay deals rather than the traditional 12-month agreements at his monthly media conference.
It would bring pay settlements in line with government departments’ spending limits, which are also set on a three-year basis, and would help to set the inflation target, according to chancellor Alistair Darling.
But Unite, Britain’s largest union with more than one million members, is “incredibly angry” the chancellor’s announcement was made without any trade union consultation.
The government’s assertion that public sector pay must be capped at 2% “makes a mockery of the pay bargaining procedures and the pay review panels appointed to conduct independent pay negotiations”, according to Gail Cartmail, Unite’s head of the public sector.
“We are absolutely opposed to the government’s dictatorial stance, not only on pay procedures but in capping the amount that our members will be paid.
“The government must allow the pay review bodies to do their job without interference.”
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, with 325,000 members, also feared the new deal would mean a pay cut in real terms.
“The fear is that what the government has in mind are three-year pay deals similar to that imposed in the Department for Work and Pensions, which delivers a pay cut in real terms and sees 40% of staff receive no pay rise in the second year,” said general secretary Mark Serwotka.
He added: “It is completely unacceptable that the government should play with real people’s lives on the false pretence of curbing inflation.”
The GMB, which represents 300,000 public sector workers, said it “flatly rejected” the idea of a three-year pay deal, questioning whether the government can be trusted.
National officer Brian Strutton said: “Perhaps most importantly of all is whether [the government] can be trusted. After all, the government has reneged on most recent pay review body awards and who’s to say it would honour a three-year deal? Its track record says otherwise.”
Construction union Ucatt was a little more optimistic. Alan Ritchie, general secretary, said: “Ucatt is not in principle opposed to multi-year pay settlement, they are commonplace in the private sector construction industry. However, as with all pay negotiations, the critical factor is what money is on the table.”