The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has poured cold water on the recent government commitment that public sector workers will receive 1% pay rises in coming years.
In July’s budget, the Chancellor announced that public sector pay rises would be capped at 1% a year until 2020.
Writing to Paul Curran of the pay review body (the DDRB), amongst others, Hands said: “The government expects pay awards to be applied in a targeted manner to support the delivery of public services, and to address recruitment and retention pressures.
“This may mean that some workers could receive more than 1% while others could receive less; there should be no expectation that every worker will receive a 1% award.”
The BMA is concerned that it means higher public sector earners will not receive the award, despite most doctors not having received a pay rise for many years.
In response, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “Not content with making frontline NHS staff bear the brunt of cuts in recent years, the government is now moving the goal posts barely two months after its announcement of a capped 1% pay rise.
“For many doctors this may mean another cut in pay, which is lower in real terms than it was a decade ago. This constant chipping away at pay at a time when frontline NHS staff are working harder than ever to keep up with rising demand on the health service leaves staff feeling devalued and demoralised.
“This disgraceful act of bad faith totally undermines what are supposed to be independent pay review processes, but which the government simply chooses to ignore when it suits them.”
The BMA and NHS Employers are currently in eleventh hour negotiations over a new consultant contract a head of an 11 September deadline.
Hands says in his letter: “The Budget also set out that the government will continue to examine pay reforms and modernise the terms and conditions of public sector workers. This will include a renewed focus on progression pay, and considering legislation where necessary to achieve the government’s objectives.”
The letter adds: “Savings from public sector pay and workforce reform made a significant contribution to reducing the deficit over the course of the last Parliament, saving around £8bn.
“The new government’s summer budget last month set out that a further £20bn of consolidation in public sector spending will be required to deliver a surplus by 2019-20.
“Whilst the deficit and debt are being reduced, the government will need to continue to ensure restraint in public sector pay. Without such restraint, reductions would need to come from other areas of spend, resulting in negative impacts on public services and jobs. At a time of difficult decisions, the government’s pay policy will help to protect the jobs of thousands of frontline public sector workers.”