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We have had our Phil of pay cap; UNION LEADERS CALL FOR FAIR WAGES; Public sector plea to Chancellor; Cost of wage misery laid bar; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: MARK ELLIS Industrial Correspondent

PUBLIC sector workers warn they have been "pushed to the brink" and are demanding an end to the pay cap forcing many to live on poverty wages.

The impassioned plea for a pay rise for the five million employees comes in an open letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, signed by the leaders of their unions today.

They urge him to use Wednesday's Budget to end the "pay misery" for millions of hard-working staff in hospitals, schools and town halls.

TUC polling showed one in seven public sector workers skipped meals this year to make ends meet, and almost a quarter (24%) said they wouldn't be able to pay an unexpected bill of PS500.

Dave Prentis, leader of the biggest public sector union Unison, said last night: "The Chancellor will be letting down millions of public service employees and their families if he doesn't come up with the cash for a proper wage rise for every public servant this week.

"After years of shrinking wages, many hopes will be pinned on the papers in that famous red box.

"Midwives, school caretakers, hospital cleaners, librarians and other public sector workers are all banking on Philip Hammond reading this letter and doing the right thing. If the Chancellor gives everyone in our schools, hospitals, police forces and local councils the wage increase they've earned, he'll not only be easing the financial worries of millions of households, he'll be throwing a lifeline to our under-pressure public services, too."

TUC research shows that a firefighter earns PS2,000 less in real terms today than in 2010, a midwife is PS3,000 worse off and a prison officer is nearly PS4,000 down.

If the pay cap continues until 2020, a social worker on PS37,858 now will suffer a real-terms pay cut of PS3,533, A midwife on PS35,255 will lose PS3,288 and a teacher on PS32,831 will be PS3,064 worse off. A firefighter on PS29,638 will be PS2,766 down, a nurse earning PS28,462 will have their pay cut by PS2,656 and an ambulance driver on PS19,655 will be PS1,838 out of pocket.

Union leaders also warned that pay rises for just police and prison staff would be "unfair" and increases must be properly funded. In September, the Government announced a 1.7% hike for prison officers and improvements in police pay totalling 2% for 2017/18. That was branded a Tory "divide HOPES Dave and rule" tactic.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Public sector workers have suffered seven long years of real-terms pay cuts. The Chancellor must give them all the pay rise they have earned.

"A pick and mix approach would be cynical and plain unfair.

Prentis "Future pay rises for all public servants must at least match the cost of living and be properly funded.

"If ministers raid already-stretched department budgets, that would be robbing Peter to pay Paul." Union leaders have reported how austerity pay has left some members relying on foodbanks and payday loans. One care worker could not afford the bus home from work.

And Unison heard of a teaching assistant secretly applying for payday loans "ashamed and frightened" that if her boiler finally packed up this winter then her family would be one cold snap away from disaster.

A quarter of the union's members - 300,000 public service workers - said that they did not know how they would pay for an unexpected expense.

More than three-quarters were buying less food and one in 10 were even missing meals to feed their children.

Unions have also seen a leap in the number of members applying for hardship benefits to tide them over between pay days.

Other hard-hit workers have changed their shopping habits to buy essentials from more cut-price supermarkets and given up family holidays abroad.

A letter to the Chancellor

Dear Philip, On Wednesday you're delivering your first November Budget. At an uncertain time for the country, you have much to consider, and many priorities to juggle.

'Millions of families have suffered under years of spending cuts. In June, the British people made it abundantly clear they wanted an end to austerity, and for public services to be properly resourced.

That must include investment in those who provide those services, too. Those who care for us, teach our children, protect and support us, every single day.

Public service workers have been pushed to the brink. Over the past decade the value of their pay has steadily fallen. Many thousands of jobs have gone, damaging morale everywhere from schools to care homes, hospitals to prisons.

But enough is enough. It's time to end the pay cuts and give public sector workers the wage rise they not only need but, more importantly, they have earned.

You must use the Budget to confirm that the selfdefeating 1% pay cap has been scrapped, once and for all. After years of holding down pay, this would be most welcome. But only if it means extra money to fund a decent pay rise for every public servant.

Inflation is 4% (RPI). Prices are rising at the supermarket and the petrol pump. For years teaching assistants, midwives and firefighters have been forced to do more with less. Only a pay rise that matches the rising cost of rent and mortgages, petrol and clothing will now do.

No one employed in the public sector should be earning poverty wages. We urge you to end the pay misery inflicted on those who did nothing to cause the global financial crisis, yet who have been picking up the pieces in our communities ever since.

Please don't think it might be possible either to get away with rewarding one profession over another. Public services are a team, and no one group of workers is any more, or less, deserving than the next.

Nor should you expect NHS, police, local council and education employers to find the money for any pay rise from their existing beleaguered resources. If you do, more services will be axed, more jobs will go and communities will be cast further adrift.

If the pay of ambulance workers, school caretakers and bin collectors keeps on being eroded, young people will no longer see public service as a viable career option.

And the future will look even bleaker if health, school, civil service and council employees, with years of experience, continue to leave for less stressful, better-paid work on fewer hours in local supermarkets. Running down our public services like this is in none of our interests.

It's time the Government changed tack, shows it believes in decent public services, and values those delivering them with more than just a pat on the back. It's time for the Government to pay up now.

'Signed: Frances O'Grady, general secretary, TUC; Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison (with 1.2 million members); Len McCluskey, general secretary, Unite (1.4 million); Tim Roache, general secretary, GMB (604,000); Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union (463,000); Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, National Education Union; Chris Keates, general secretary, The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (295,000); Mark Serwotka, general secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union (185,000); Mick Clancy, general secretary, Prospect (140,000); Sally Hunt, general secretary, University and College Union (104,000); Claire Sullivan, general secretary, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (40,000); Matt Wrack, general secretary, Fire Brigades Union (35,000); Gill Walton, general secretary, Royal College of Midwives (35,000); Steve Gillan, general secretary, Prison Officers' Association (30,000).

AROUND 500,000 more people will be plunged into poverty by the end of the decade unless the Tory Government ends the benefits freeze.

The independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation has measured the impact of the four-year freeze and says the rising cost of essentials is hitting low-income family budgets hardest.

Poverty among working people has risen by 600,000 over the past decade to 3.7 million - almost one in eight workers. As an increasing number of working families are using foodbanks to get by, Government policies will make the situation worse.

In 2020, a couple with two children getting Universal Credit will be PS16 per week (PS832 per year) worse off than if benefits had kept up with prices since 2010.

The foundation is also calling on the Government to tackle Britain's productivity problem as higher productivity drives higher pay. But in the UK productivity in low-wage sectors - such as retail and hospitality - lags behind the US, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The research shows the economy is "highly uneven", with as many as one in five workers reporting a lack of jobs or not being able to find a job with enough hours in areas such as Birmingham and Liverpool.

A prevalence of low-paid and insecure jobs is notable in Cumbria, the Humber and Lincolnshire.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: "The Government risks overseeing a living standards crisis. There is still time to fix this. Lift the freeze on benefits and tax credits to ease the strain on family budgets."

He said the move should be given priority over raising the income tax personal allowance and he called for 80,000 affordable new homes a year.


FIREFIGHTER PS2,766 in real terms if pay cap continues until 2020 pay cut

TEACHER PS3,064 in real terms if pay cap continues until 2020 pay cut

NURSE PS2,656 in real terms if pay cap continues until 2020 pay cut

AMBULANCE DRIVER PS1,838 in real terms if pay cap continues until 2020 pay cut

DEMAND Frances O'Grady

VITAL Foodbanks are in demand

least match HOPES Dave Prentis
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2017

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