Unison calls on employers to invest in their workforce

Unions are calling on public-sector employers to invest in their staff in the wake of the Government’s £43bn boost to public spending.

Unison general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe described the extra money as “rain at the end of a long drought”.

But the union’s officials called for more direct attention to be paid to the morale of Britain’s five million public-sector staff.

“If you are looking to improve public services, part of that investment should be on both attracting and retaining the people who are going to deliver them,” said a Unison spokeswoman. She said it was too early to tell if the review would feed into next year’s public sector pay claim. But she said, “It is impossible to look at things in isolation.”

Bob Mayho, policy director for the Employers Organisation, said the review would not materially affect local government’s ability to pay. That will depend on the revenue support settlement in early December. But he added, “The unions may well argue for a greater share for their members in negotiations next year.”

Economists played down the likely impact of the review on inflation, since the new money is not being spent directly on wages.

But there could be an indirect impact as about 50 per cent of the spending of government departments goes on wages and salaries.

The review concentrated on education, health and transport. Education is to receive a £12bn boost, health is to receive £13bn – two-thirds of NHS spending goes on wages and salaries – and transport is to get a 10-year investment plan worth up to £120bn.

Chancellor Gordon Brown also announced that the New Deal will be permanent and will cover all the long-term unemployed. Originally funded by a windfall levy on privatised utilities, New Deal had been allocated £3.5bn, but due to an underspend and lower unemployment, additional resources are still to be allocated.

• Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers is to map out a strategy for his department in two landmark speeches next month. Officials said the aim will be to refocus the department on a stronger economic role with help for business development, rather than on regeneration.

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