Real wages still falling - O'Grady

Real wages are still falling despite the economic recovery, with public sector workers facing a "huge squeeze" on their incomes, according to a union leader.

Frances O'Grady said council and health workers, and civil servants do not feel they are about to share in the recovery from recession
Frances O'Grady said council and health workers, and civil servants do not feel they are about to share in the recovery from recession

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said council and health workers, and civil servants do not feel they are about to share in the recovery from recession.

She spoke as plans were being finalised for a huge one-day strike next week by over a million public sector workers in a series of long-running disputes over pay and other issues.

Ms O'Grady, speaking at the national conference of Unite in Liverpool, warned that the morale of workers in the NHS, schools, local authorities and the civil service was "plummeting", raising the prospect that no-one would want to work in the public sector.

She said: "Pay restraint was a bitter pill to swallow during the dark days of recession, but now the economy looks to be back on its feet, public sector workers are understandably angry that their pay continues to be held down.

"Pay rises way below the cost of living, coming hard on the heels of several years of pay freezes, have left family budgets stretched to the limit.

"Now, as economic pressures seem to be lifting, the Government is still insisting on keeping public sector workers' pay down. The recovery remains some way off for our hard-working, dedicated midwives, nurses, teachers, dinner ladies and other public servants.

"For them, several years more of financial worry and frugal living lie ahead."

The TUC leader said the anger about "unfair" pay will be on display during the strike on July 10, adding that workers would find it hard to lose a day's wages, but felt they had no other choice because the Government was not listening.

Ms O'Grady said: "Spending cuts and large-scale redundancies have hit libraries, leisure centres and nurseries hard in communities right across Britain. The workers left holding the fort and trying to deliver those services - despite the loss of many of their colleagues - have pretty much had enough.

"Their pay packets have been slashed and half a million local government workers still earn less than the living wage.

"Refuse collectors, lollipop men and women, parks attendants, skilled technicians - all feel treated with contempt and taken for granted.

"Local authorities say they have no money to pay them more because the Chancellor has cut council budgets to the bone. The Government managed to find the cash to give the wealthy a nice tax cut, yet professes not to have the means to give hard-working public servants the pay rise they deserve."

Ms O'Grady added that the TUC was pressing ahead with plans for a massive demonstration in October to highlight its message that "Britain needs a pay rise".