Civil service pay: Prospect union joins calls for Phillip Hammond to end “political football” of 1% cap

Union calls for independent review of pay as it warns that maintaining a 1% cap on pay rises is “unsustainable”

By Suzannah Brecknell

07 Mar 2017

Chancellor Phillip Hammond is facing fresh calls to scrap the public sector pay cap, as the Prospect union called for an independent review to ensure that the civil service can recruit and retain the staff it needs.

During his time at the Treasury, Hammond's predecessor George Osborne froze pay across the public sector and then imposed a 1% cap on payrises from 2012.

That cap is currently scheduled to remain in place until at least 2020.

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But Prospect, which represents professionals, managers and specialists in the civil service and broader public sector, said the policy meant its members had experienced "unprecedented downward pressure on their pay and a decline in living standards in real terms since 2010".

The union's deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: "The current approach to pay and reward in the civil service and the wider public sector is unsustainable if we are to recruit, retain and motivate a workforce to meet the challenges facing the UK.”

The most recent civil service people survey, which measures staff engagement across the organisation, shows 66% of respondents are unsatisfied with their pay, while 25% wanting to leave their jobs either immediately or within the next year; and three-quarters saying they would be better rewarded for undertaking similar roles elsewhere.

Highlighting those figures, Graham said public servants were "suffering because their pay being treated as a blunt instrument of macroeconomic policy and a political football".

“Now is the time for an evidence-led approach to ensure that the UK can recruit, retain and motivate the skilled workforce it needs; that is why we are calling for an independent pay review.”

The call for an independent pay review comes shortly after the separate PCS union launched a new campaign for a pay rise, saying it would work with other public sector unions and consider joint action to break the 1% pay cap.

PCS released figures on Monday showing that average civil service pay has fallen by up to 9% in real terms over the past six years, and warned that if Hammond does not lift the pay cap real wages will have fallen by 12% on 2010 levels by the end of the parliament.

The PCS says it plans to submit a national pay claim to the Cabinet Office minister and the head of the civil service, for a pay increase of 5% or £1,200 – whichever is the greater.

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