The government is to lift the long-standing 1% annual cap on public sector pay from next year, and has confirmed higher rises for police and prison officers this year, Downing Street has announced.
Cabinet agreed on Tuesday that police would receive a 2% pay rise for 2017-18 – half of which is a one-off bonus – and prison officers a 1.7% rise, Theresa May’s spokesman said.
The Prison Officers Association said, however, that the offer was inadequate and it would be still be seeking to take industrial action.
May’s spokesman said that more widely there would be scope for “flexibility” over public sector pay rises from 2018-19, effectively spelling the end of the 1% cap which has been in place for seven years.
“The cabinet agreed that our public sector workers are among the most talented and hard-working people in our society,” May’s spokesman said. “They, like everyone else, deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded.
“The government takes a balanced approach to public spending, dealing with our debts to keep our economy strong, while also making sure we invest in our public services.
“The government recognises that in some parts of the public sector, particularly in areas of skill shortage, more flexibility may be required to deliver world class public services, including in return for improvements to public sector productivity.”
The prison officers’ union said that it would still be seeking to take industrial action for more money for public sector workers, describing the offer as a pay cut in real terms.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said at a Morning Star fringe event at the TUC conference: “Inflation is running at 2.9%. Anything below that inflation rate is a pay cut for our members..
“I don’t know what the rest of the public sector is going to get. I have made it clear that it is a pay cut. It is not acceptable. Our executive will be looking to coordinate action with other trade unions.”
May’s spokesman said that the specific remit for the various pay review bodies on how high they could go for rises in 2018-19 would be “agreed as part of the budget process and set out in due course”.
There was, he added, a need for pay discipline over coming years to balance the needs of public sector workers “while also being affordable within the public finances and fair to taxpayers as a whole”.
The police and prison officer deals are the last set of public sector pay arrangements to be concluded for the current financial year. These pay awards would come from existing Home Office and justice ministry budgets, No 10 said.
The news came as major unions threatened widespread industrial action to try to end the public sector pay freeze.
A motion was passed at the TUC annual conference calling for “immediate steps to develop a coordinated strategy of opposition to the pay cap … including … pay demands, campaign activities, tactics, ballots and industrial action”.
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