Public sector workers angered by ‘slap in the face’ pay squeeze

By Alistair Mason and Max McLean, PA
·2-min read

Public sector workers have described Rishi Sunak’s squeeze on their wages as “a slap in the face”.

In his Spending Review, the Chancellor said that those working in the NHS would get an increase in pay but rises for the rest of the public sector would be “paused” – except for 2.1 million workers earning below the median wage of £24,000, who will receive at least £250 extra.

However, a number of workers in the sector feel that compensation is not enough for the work they have carried out during the pandemic.

Donna Spicer, 48, a teaching assistant from the Royal Borough of Greenwich
Donna Spicer, 48, a teaching assistant from the Royal Borough of Greenwich (Donna Spicer)

“That’s just a slap in the face, £250. That works out (at) what, £20 a month?” teaching assistant Donna Spicer, 48, from Greenwich in south-east London, told the PA news agency.

“That’s not going to fill my car up with petrol, it wouldn’t get my colleagues a bus pass. He might as well just keep it.

“Public sector workers, teaching staff, school support staff, we’ve been on the front line throughout.

“All this about ‘schools are closed’ – no, they haven’t been, they’ve been partially closed because we’ve still been looking after key-worker children and we’ve been looking after the vulnerable children throughout.”

Ms Spicer, a branch president for the GMB union, added: “Since the full return of school we’re putting our lives on the line every day that we go to school.

“What about the staff’s mental health and wellbeing? We’re worrying daily about catching it (coronavirus).”

Simon Cotton, a 36-year-old refuse worker from Southampton, said the figure “just goes to show how out of touch this Tory Government is with its public sector workers”.

Simon Cotton, a refuse worker of 17 years
Simon Cotton, a refuse worker (Simon Cotton)

He continued: “We’ve had 10 years of a Tory Government – cuts, freezes. We just want a bit of appreciation from this Tory Government.

“I just can’t believe it really, to be honest. My workers, who I represent as a union rep, they live day to day to their wages. Before they get paid they’ve spent it.

“We’ve got to have a pay freeze but they’ve got money for other projects. They’re throwing large sums of money at other things but they can’t give it to the very people that have kept the country going.

“We’re not immune to this Covid crisis. The workers are not immune to it. We can still get it. We’ve got families that we have to go home to, and the teachers who are still working hard in the schools. It’s not good.”