Pay cap spells 'crisis' in teaching and care as MP's vote denies workers more cash

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:10 12 July 2017

Unison members and Labour Councillors outside Weston Town Hall protesting against cuts.

Unison members and Labour Councillors outside Weston Town Hall protesting against cuts.

Archant

People in Weston-super-Mare gathered to fight for pay rises for council workers at the same time the town’s MP voted against scrapping the public sector salary increase cap.

Unison members in North Somerset met in Weston to hear from its chief negotiator Heather Wakefield on its plans to fight for a five per cent pay rise for public sector workers.

A Government pay cap exists for anyone working in the public sector – this includes teachers, care workers healthcare professionals, emergency service personnel and council staff.

Public sector workers had their pay frozen completely from 2011-2013 and since then pay rises have been capped at one per cent per year.

Ms Wakefield said: “Things are really difficult for everybody. The public sector pay gap has been growing since 2010 now, what that means is pay has effectively been cut in real terms by around 22 per cent.

“Everyone I know is operating in a climate of fear about keeping jobs, so fighting for better pay rises is difficult.

“There have also been cuts to unsocial hours payments, and car mileage allowances, and annual leave and sick pay is being cut. All of this adds up to a grim picture for councils. Councils are having difficulty recruiting and retaining staff.”

Protestors picketing during a previous public sector strike.Protestors picketing during a previous public sector strike.

Helen Thornton, of North Somerset Unison, told the Mercury the lowest rate of local government pay is just 28p above the national living wage, and said: “We cannot take the one per cent pay cap any longer.”

Nationally, the Labour Party called for an amendment to the Queen’s speech which would see an end to the cap, but it was rejected by MPs with 323 votes to 309.

Weston’s MP John Penrose voted against ending the cap but admitted ‘everyone is starting to feel the pinch’.

He said: “It’s been difficult, trying to pretend otherwise would be unfair and untrue. Yes it is tricky, and people want to see an opportunity to change this.

“But if you’re going to try to add extra money... you’ve got to say where you’re going to get it from. You’ve either got to borrow... or you’ve got to raise taxes. That is something which the nation needs to have a much clearer view of.”

North Somerset secretary for the National Union of Teachers Jon Reddiford said the Government has ‘missed an opportunity’ and warned the ‘teacher recruitment and retention crisis’ will get worse.

He added: “The pay being offered to newly-qualified teachers would be over £3,500 higher if the pay cap had never been applied and schools would have far fewer difficulties in recruiting new graduates.”

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