The Tories are starting to cave on the public sector pay cap

If leaked reports are to be believed, the 1% pay freeze is finished - but not for everyone.

The government is set to break its public sector pay cap – by offering a pay rise to prison and police officers.

The Treasury leak, reported by the BBC on Sunday night, comes before the Autumn Budget, and suggests the Tories are caving on growing demands for an end to seven years of real-terms pay cuts.

Leaks last week also suggested the pay cap would be lifted for NHS workers, teachers and civil servants.

As Left Foot Forward have reported, from 2010 to 2016 NHS workers, firemen, teachers, civil servants and key workers have seen their pay fall by between £2,000 and £4,000 in real terms.

The end of the pay cap would bring public sector wages in line with at least the rate of inflation, which is currently 2.6 per cent.

But speakers at TUC Congress have rejected a ‘divide and rule’ approach to ending the pay cap, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell telling a packed rally:

“We will scrap the pay cap by having a fair taxation system where the corporations and the rich pay their way through taxes.”

“We want the pay cap scrapped for everybody. We will not be divided and ruled again.”

Commenting on the government’s latest backtracking, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The ice is beginning to crack. The government have clearly lost the argument on public sector pay.

“Police and prison officers are long overdue a pay rise, but so too are the nurses, firefighters and all public servants working across the country.

“This is not a popularity contest. Ministers must not cherry-pick some workers for a pay rise, while leaving others in the cold. Public sector workers’ pay has fallen for seven long years. They have all earned a pay rise.

“We need to hear more about how this will be funded. The costs for this pay rise must not fall upon our already-stretched public services.”

TUC research earlier this year showed how much public sector wages would be down in real terms if the pay cap continued until 2020:

Occupation Pay in 2015/16 Pay in 2020/21
at RPI in 2016 prices
Real pay cut
in 2016 prices
Social worker £37,858 £34,325 -£3,533
Midwife £35,255 £31,937 -£3,288
Teacher £32,831 £29,767 -£3,064
Fire fighter £29,638 £26,827 -£2,766
Nurse £28,462 £25,806 -£2,656
UK Border Agency officer £27,000 £24,480 -£2,520
Jobcentre Plus supervisor £24,727 £22,419 -£2,308
Ambulance driver £19,655 £17,821 -£1,834


With cracks this big, the entire edifice of the pay cap looks set to crumble.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

LFF are covering the whole of TUC Congress – watch this space for updates. Email [email protected] with tips, pitches, or if there’s something we’ve missed. 

See also: Frances O’Grady: Unions will fight the worst of ‘hard’ Brexit

One Response to “The Tories are starting to cave on the public sector pay cap”

  1. patrick newman

    Not so fast!. There is a catch, of course. Not only does it seem that above 1% increases will be allowed for police and prison officers (perhaps they are worried about having resources to deal with riots) but it is not clear they will be fully funded, i.e. self funding means job losses. This may be applied to the other sectors and thus saying to the public to choose either to continuing making public servants worse off each year or suffer further cuts to public services such as health, social services, education and police etc. Public sector unions must rise to the challenge.

Comments are closed.