Simmering resentment across the public sector at government pay policy threatens lasting damage to industrial relations, unions have warned.
The TUC and its 26 member unions representing the UK’s public sector workforce have launched a major new campaign urging the government not to impose below-inflation pay increases in the coming year.
All of the unions have called on ministers to accept the recommendations made by the various pay review bodies in full to avoid any repetition of the anger that provoked a wave of strike ballots across public services throughout last year.
Unions claim the government’s target of 2% pay rises for workers including nurses, civil servants, police officers and teachers, represents a cut in living standards when the cost of living is rising at about 4% a year.
TUC chief Brendan Barber said: “The government is planning a further three years of reduced living standards. The arguments for doing this do not stack up, and the risks are big.
“It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants, but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector.”
The unions said they would work together to co-ordinate pay strategies, build support, and put forward early claims to employers.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which has more than 315,000 members across government departments and agencies, urged the government to make a “fresh start” in 2008. “The government should be making a New Year’s resolution to start treating its own workforce with the respect they deserve,” he said.