Unions threaten to strike after raising public sector wages below inflation

Angry union leaders on Tuesday signaled a wave of strikes in the coming months after the government announced sub-inflation wage hikes for millions of public sector workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet on Tuesday approved pay increases for 2.5 million public sector workers, averaging about 5%. Consumer price inflation is currently at its highest level in 40 years, at over 9 percent.

Fighting the cost of living crisis, the government said it had accepted the recommendations of independent pay authorities covering the public sector.

It says this year’s awards were intended to “strike a careful balance” between recognizing the contributions of public sector workers, financial discipline and controlling inflation.

But the unions described the rewards as “pathetic”, suggesting the government had not gone far enough to prevent them from consulting their members about the strike.

Salaries of experienced teachers will increase by 5 percent in the next academic year.

Kevin Courtney, joint secretary general of the National Education Union, said teachers would not tolerate “another significant cut” in the real value of their wages during a time of rising inflation.

“Given this very poor pay proposal, we will try to consult with our members in the fall,” he added. “This will be the largest teacher vote in a generation.”

The government said nurses, paramedics, midwives and porters would receive a £1,400 raise, averaging 4%.

For physicians and dentists, growth will average 4.5%, and for senior NHS managers 3.5%.

Christina Macanea, General Secretary of Unison, said the government made a “big mistake” with an NHS pay deal that is “failing on all fronts.”

She added: “Fed up staff may well decide to take matters into their own hands. If there is a dispute in the NHS, ministers will have no one to blame but themselves.”

Sharon Graham, Secretary General of Unite, said the government had dealt a “blow in the teeth” to public sector workers and “the so-called wage offer is tantamount to a massive pay cut in the country.”

Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, called the deal a “serious mistake” that would alienate nurses from the profession, adding union members would vote and say what they want to do next.

Police officers will receive a flat £1,900 pay raise, averaging 5 per cent.

The government has offered pay increases to public sector recruits, as well as to some of the lowest paid.

Teachers’ starting salaries will rise by 8.9% in line with the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment.

For the lowest paid NHS employees, such as porters, the pay increase is equivalent to 9.3%. A police settlement costs 9 percent for the lowest paid.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday morning showed that UK private sector wages up nearly five times faster as wages for employees of the public sector.