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Employment

Rising inflation has already cancelled out pay rises for teachers, NHS staff and police officers

Pay rises for teachers, NHS staff and police officers have already been outpaced by new inflation rates. Here’s what the government has awarded people working in the public sector, and how unions have responded.

New inflation figures have wiped out the government’s pay rises for public sector workers just 24 hours after they were announced.

Inflation has jumped from 9.1 per cent to 9.4 per cent, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics, meaning prices are rising at the fastest rate in 40 years.

The new inflation rate was published less than 24 hours after the government’s pay award for the public sector was announced, meaning even the highest pay award of 9.3 per cent for NHS cleaners and porters now amounts to a real-terms pay cut. Most of the pay rises fall way short of the rate of inflation, which is a measure of how costs are rising.

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And unions are not happy. Many are now threatening strikes, including teachers unions NASUWT and the NEU and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). 

Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also criticised the pay rises. Chief economist Rebecca McDonald said: “With inflation reaching 9.4 per cent and wiping out pay increases, the cost of living crisis is only worsening and no time can be lost in preparing the country for profoundly difficult months to come.

“Watching events in Westminster, you could conclude that the crisis has been paused – if you are struggling to take showers and put food on the table it won’t feel like it.”

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Here’s the pay rise each profession will be getting, and how the unions have responded. 

What pay rise have teachers been awarded?

From September, new teachers will be paid 8.9 per cent more in a bid to entice people to join the profession, while experienced teachers will get a 5 per cent pay rise.

“We are delivering significant pay increases for all teachers despite the present economic challenges, pushing teacher starting salaries up towards the £30,000 milestone and giving experienced teachers the biggest pay rise in a generation” said education secretary James Cleverly.

“This will attract even more top-quality talent to inspire children and young people and reward teachers for their hard work.”

How have education unions responded to the pay rise, and will they strike?

Both the NASUWT and National Education Union (NEU) teaching unions have said the increase of 5 per cent for more experienced staff is too low, and will be balloting their members for strike action. 

“A 5 per cent increase would still mean yet another huge cut to the real value of teacher pay against inflation,” said Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU.

“8.9 per cent for beginner teachers does not really shift the dial on teacher recruitment problems. It gives delayed effect to the government’s 2019 plan to reach a £30,000 starter salary within two years. In that time, however, teachers will have experienced the intense and excessive workload which leads to almost a third quitting within five years of qualifying.  

“Given this very poor pay proposal, we will look towards consulting our members in the autumn. This will be the largest ballot of teachers for a generation.”  

NASUWT will also be balloting their members for strike action. “We will not allow cuts to our members’ pay and attacks on their pensions. If a pay rise is not awarded, it will be won by our members in workplaces through industrial action,” said the union’s general secretary Dr Patrick Roach.

What pay rise have NHS workers been awarded?

Basic pay for newly qualified nurses will increase by 5.5 per cent, but most nurses will receive a rise of around 3.7 per cent. Nursing is currently seeing one of the worst recruitment and retention crises, with 40,000 vacancies for registered nurses unfilled by the end of 2021 and 500 nurses and midwives leaving the profession each week

The majority of doctors and dentists will receive a 4.5 per cent pay rise, while the lowest paid NHS staff including porters and cleaners will get a 9.3 per cent increase. 

The pay awards will mean a pay rise of at least £1,400 for over one million NHS staff, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

How have healthcare unions responded and will they strike?

“This is nowhere ​near what’s needed to save the NHS,” said public sector union Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton.

“Many will be seriously considering industrial action after this pitiful increase and a majority of the public will be behind them,” she continued, referencing a study by Savanta ComRes that found than half the public believe that an above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff of more than 9 per cent would be a fair.

The RCN has announced that it will be balloting its members for strike action in response to the pay award. 

General secretary Pat Cullen said: “With this low award, the government is misjudging the mood of nursing staff and the public too.

“There are tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and today ministers have taken the NHS even further from safe patient care. 

“Living costs are rising and yet they have enforced another real-terms pay cut on nursing staff. It will push more nurses and nursing support workers out of the profession.

“Our members will vote and tell us what they want to do next. We are grateful for the growing public support, including over strike action.”

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What pay rise have prison officers been awarded?

All prison staff have been awarded a pay rise of at least 4 per cent. 

Prison guards, like nurses, are in high demand as a shortage of labour is seeing the sectors desperate to hire. Adverts for prison officers rose by 13 per cent in late 2021, according to Recruitment and Employment Confederation data. 

“Pay awards this year strike a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer, not increasing the country’s debt further, and being careful not to drive even higher prices in the future,” said justice secretary Dominic Raab.

How has the prisons union responded and will they strike?

The Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA) said the award showed the government treats prisoner workers with “disdain”. 

“Our members work in the most hostile environment in Western Europe, and this is how they are recognised,” said POA general secretary Steve Gillan.

“This pay rise will do little to arrest people leaving the service simply because they are having to choose between putting food on the table or fuel in the car to get to work. A crisis of the Government’s own making.”

Prison officers are banned from striking under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

What pay rise have police officers been awarded?

All police officers in England and Wales will receive a 5 per cent overall pay rise, which works out to a £1,900 salary uplift, or an extra £36 per week. 

“I am pleased to be able to accept the pay review body recommendations in full so that all police officers see a £1,900 salary uplift,” said home secretary Priti Patel.

“It is right that we recognise the extraordinary work of our officers who day in, day out, work tirelessly to keep our streets, communities and country safe.”

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How has the police officer’s union responded and will they strike?

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) called the raise a “small first step in repairing relationships between ministers and our hard-working police officers”.

“Officers have already faced two years of a blanket pay freeze, a 20 per cent real terms pay cut since 2010, and now huge additional cost-of-living pressures. The average 5 per cent settlement announced today is still below inflation, and PFEW believes the Government ‘still has a long way to go’ to demonstrate they’re treating officers with the dignity and respect they deserve, this is only a small first step forward in regaining their trust,” said PFEW national chair Steve Hartshorn.

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