General Secretary

October 2017 | 01.10.2017




The Government chose to release the recommendations of the Pay Review Body amid much speculation, and tried to spin the outcome as a fair and appropriate pay award for our hard-working members in public sector prisons. Remember our members in the NHS had already had the outcome of their pay review body before the summer recess in Parliament, which capped their pay at one percent.

The speculation whilst the POA delegation were at the TUC was intense that the pay cap would be ended for police and prison staff. Indeed, on average it was above one percent but let no one dress this up as a pay rise when the Consumer Price Index is running at 2.9 percent and the Retail Price Index is running at 3.9 percent.

This is a pay cut and the television interviews that I and others gave whilst in Brighton categorically stated that, and it was also was stated by Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary − and indeed, politicians and other general secretaries.

Our members are £4,000 a year worse off

This pay rise needed to be above five percent and then substantial increases going forward to even touch the sides of the cuts to salary POA members have suffered since 2010. On average, our members are £4,000 a year worse off, recruitment and retention is no better and getting worse, with many POA members either leaving the job or indeed actively looking for alternative employment.

The Pay Review Body are completely out of touch with the needs of a service in deep crisis. The media, of course, would like to make this a ‘public v private worker’ issue but the fact is; everyone deserves a pay rise after years of austerity. Worker should not be pitched against worker to see who is more deserving. It should not be a race to the bottom. We are not asking for favours − just fairness, no matter where our members work.

The POA delegates at the TUC played their role in the composite motion, it was supported unanimously by Congress and no fewer than 13 trade unions were at the rostrum. The wording of the motion was as follows:

Congress notes the extremely volatile and uncertain political outlook confronting working people and the broader population across the UK. Congress notes the pay squeeze suffered by private and public-sector workers since the 2007/08 financial crash.

Underlying this are deep fault lines in the way in which our economy and society work, that clearly deliver for the few and not the many. These fault lines can be seen in:

  1. The lack of decent, well paid career opportunities, especially for young people, who studies show are comparatively worse off than previous generations.
  2. Ongoing severe cuts to the services that our communities rely upon, which have been subject to close to one million job cuts since 2010 and now face further austerity.
  3. Increased pay inequality, discrimination and exploitation as a result of the Government’s pursuit of an agenda of deregulation, privatisation and attacks on workers’ rights.
  4. The continued squeeze on pay and living standards, including for public sector workers who stand to be an average of a further £1,700 a year worse off by 2020 if the Westminster pay cap continues.

Congress notes that public sector workers have suffered a real terms cut in wages arising from a deliberate policy by UK, and devolved administrations, to implement a combination of pay freezes and pay caps for the majority of public sector workers.

Congress notes the Government’s imposed two year pay freeze on public sector workers in 2010, followed by a one percent cap on the pay of firefighters, nurses, teachers, civil servants and other public-sector workers. Congress notes recent statements made by current ministers that “nothing has changed” on the one percent pay cap, despite inflation of three percent or more.

Congress condemns the Government’s attitude towards hard working public sector workers, which has left many workers struggling to make ends meet and rely on food banks.

Recruitment and retention

The Government is too easily taking for granted the good will and dedication of NHS hard-pressed staff, struggling to cope with overwhelming workloads at a time when recruitment and retention is becoming more and more challenging. There is currently a shortage of thousands of midwives in the UK and the NHS needs to ensure that they pay enough to retain and recruit enough midwives to give high quality, safe care to women and their families. Investment in staff is an investment in high quality, safe care. Congress notes with concern the significant effects of this sustained real terms cut in wages, leading to less money being available to spend on food, clothing, and housing with a subsequent drop in living standards for large numbers of workers.

The pay cap has already had a devastating effect on the value of the incomes of our members. Research shows the effect of that policy will mean that average civil service pay will have fallen in value by over 20 percent by 2020 and that the pay of an average midwife has dropped by over £6,000 since 2010. With inflation increasing rapidly the value of pay is set to drop even further.

Other professions have also suffered. For example, the recent report to the Office of Manpower Economics, looking into wage growth in pay review body occupations, found that radiographers have suffered one of the biggest declines in real wages.

‘Lift the Cap’

Congress welcomes the TUC report, ‘Lift the Cap’, which explains the impact of the pay cap on living standards. Congress notes the TUC’s estimate that public sector workers have lost between £2,000 and £5,000 in real terms as a result of the Westminster Government’s pay policy.

Congress strongly believes that society must recognise the real value of public service workers to their communities and the economy.

Congress further believes that public sector pay policy has contaminated the wider economy and eroded collective bargaining elsewhere. This is illustrated by recent disputes in the Bank of England, SERCO at Bart’s Health NHS Trust, and pensions disputes in the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency and Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Congress recognises that all public-sector workers deserve a pay rise, and that a united public sector wide campaign is the best way to pressurise the chancellor to end the pay gap.

Properly funded public services

It is now urgent that the Government not only ends its public sector pay cap but also properly funds our public services, including pay rises that reflect the rising cost of living and address the cumulative losses suffered by public servants over the last decade.

It is not enough to just end the policy of the public sector pay cap on paper, this must result in a real terms pay increase for NHS staff and others. The Government must reflect the change in policy in the evidence they submit to the NHS Pay Review Body and they must make the case for a fully funded, real terms pay increase for NHS staff. NHS staff will expect a pay rise if the cap is lifted and anything less will irrevocably damage industrial relations in the NHS.

The NHS needs a major injection of cash to ensure that it can provide the high quality care for patients that its staff desperately want to provide. Above all, we need that investment to ensure that a fair pay award is made to NHS staff who have suffered years of pay cuts as they’ve seen the value of their earnings steadily reduce. Congress notes the conditional pay offer of two percent made to firefighters in July through the National Joint Council.

Congress welcomes the breach to the pay cap, but condemns the Westminster Government for failing to fund such pay increases from central resources.

Increasingly concerned electorate

Congress notes that during and following the General Election, the issue of the public sector pay cap has been at the forefront of political debate, and that the electorate is increasingly concerned and angered by the Government’s insistence on pursuing its austerity agenda, regardless of the consequences. A number of Conservative MPs and Government ministers have called for the pay cap to be lifted and the Labour Party sought to amend the Queen’s Speech to end the cap.

We call on the TUC and all affiliates to harness the enthusiasm that we saw from the electorate − particularly younger voters – for a different approach. One in which public services are properly funded, public sector staff are properly rewarded and supported and the public are able to access the quality care and support they need from the NHS.

Congress calls on the General Council to continue its political campaign to mobilise public opinion behind a decisive break with the era of austerity and to campaign for a new social and economic settlement that prioritises decent work, fair pay, genuine equality of opportunity and quality of life for all – not just the few.

Congress resolves to campaign to remove the public sector pay cap policy from the whole public sector.

Minimum wage

The fi rst step is to end the public sector pay cap immediately and campaign for a minimum wage of £10 per hour and an end to in work poverty and ensure pay review bodies are fully funded and independent with reserved seats for those with relevant employee representation experience.

Congress also resolves to support affiliates’ campaigns to deliver restorative pay rises to members. Congress supports the 2018/19 pay claim submitted by the local government trade unions for restorative pay increases of at least fi ve percent and calls on the TUC to make the case that the Government needs to fund catch up pay to address the fall in value of NHS wages following seven years of pay restraint.

Congress calls on the General Council to:

  1. Facilitate, organise and co-ordinate collective action and campaigns, including industrial action when required, on the part of affiliates to end public sector pay restraint across the UK.
  2. Immediately step up the campaign for pay increases for workers in the private and public sectors: The Government must drop its pay cap and provide funding to public sector employers for pay increases.
  3. Seek a meeting with the chancellor to present a public sector wide demand to end the pay cap and provide adequate funding for above inflation pay rises.
  4. Organise a lobby of Parliament, a large scale public meeting in Westminster, a national demonstration in support of our demands and convene rallies and other public events in major towns and cities across the country.
  5. Take immediate steps to develop a coordinated strategy of opposition to the pay cap within the public sector, including the sharing and coordinating of bargaining timetables and pay demands, campaign activities, tactics, ballots and industrial action.

This composite motion consisted of no fewer than 7 original motions including POA motion along with several amendments. Unions including UNISON, PCS, POA, EIS GMB, CSP, UNITE, NASUWT, Royal College of Midwives, FDA, FBU and Society of Radiographers. It is a wordy composite but leaves no stone unturned and call for a united approach something that the POA have been calling for over a long period of time.

POA’s second motion

Our second motion was Motion 33 which was in light of our permanent injunction and has resulted in the court of appeal refusing our appeal regarding the permanency of the injunction.

Our motion was seconded and amended by the FBU to show how important it is to get rid of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994 Section 127 (since amended). If the Government and courts can treat us in this disgraceful and vindictive manner then they can do it to any trade union who is deemed to be an essential service. Once again, this motion was passed unanimously by the TUC delegates and the POA will continue with its campaign to get rid of Section 127 and have it repealed and a further application will be prepared to send to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

I would like to thank all delegates from the POA who attended the TUC in Brighton for all their hard work.

On behalf of the POA I also now have a seat on the Executive Committee as well as the General Council of the TUC.

Steve Gillan
General Secretary