Polly Toynbee is right to criticize ministers for falsely claiming that their hands are tied to public sector salaries by supposedly independent pay control agencies (Who do you believe: the brilliant NHS staff who treated my cancer, or ministers who spin and lie? December 14).
In December 2021, the Treasury’s economic evidence to rating agencies stated that inflation was expected to peak at around 4% in 2022 and that inflation would return to the 2% target. It said private sector employers expected pay rates of 2.5% in the 12 months to August 2022. It also said that public sector recruitment and retention data showed a generally positive picture and that these issues in the private sector had not necessarily translated into wage increases across the economy.
As we now know, inflation is over 10% and private sector earnings growth is 7%. There are widespread labor and job shortages in both the private and public sectors, particularly in the NHS.
The government should be forced to reopen public sector pay negotiations for benefits in 2022 as their complacent and misleading economic forecasts have been proven so wrong, and when they try to hide behind “independent” wage monitoring agencies, they should they are challenged.
University of Greenwich
Polly Toynbee is right when she says that wage reviewers (PRBs) do not set wages. I was appointed to the Armed Forces PRB in 1987 as an “Employers’ Representative”. To arrive at our recommendations, we had to consider many factors, such as the state of recruitment, comparison to civilian occupations, the state of the economy, and what the government was likely to accept. It was the Prime Minister who decided whether to accept or change our recommendations.
The government’s insistence on being tied to the NHS’s pay monitoring body would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. For more than a decade, the government has ignored official agencies’ recommendations on public sector wages, mostly claiming that the proposed increases were unaffordable. An exception is the salary recommendations of members of parliament, which are generally fully implemented. Nurses’ wages have fallen by 20% in real terms over the past decade, as have most public sector workers’ wages.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Your report on the nurses’ strike highlights the gradual decline in wages and working conditions over the last decade. This is contradicted by claims by ministers that nurses have received an average pay rise of 4%, while the rest of the public sector has had a pay freeze. Perhaps someone should remind them that MPs received a £2,200 pay rise last April. Who pays their salary?
Marple, Greater Manchester
According to the most recent data, there are 39,652 nursing vacancies in the NHS. The average salary for a nurse is £34,000. Presumably the NHS is budgeting full quota, suggesting at least £1.35bn has gone unspent for this year alone. When the deficits of previous years are taken into account, it is difficult to argue that there is no money. The shortfall is 10% of the workforce; if converted to cash, it falls within the tradable range of the RCN. The government must do more to reach a settlement.
Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex