Public sector pay policy leaves many key workers out in the cold, say unions

Scottish Finance Secretary has announced her Budget.

Key worker support signs
Key worker support signs

Too many of Scotland’s key workers will be “left out in the cold” with a real terms wage cut under the proposed Scottish Budget, union leaders have said.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a wage increase for most public sector workers, but only those earning up to £25,000 a year will get a pay rise at a minimum level of 3%.

Those on higher salaries will get a 1% rise, capped at £800 for those earning £80,000 a year or more, while separate negotiations are taking place on NHS workers.

Ms Forbes said the Scottish Government will continue its “progressive and restorative approach” to public sector pay, with ministers “focused on addressing low pay”.

But Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said the Scottish budget had increased by nearly 4%.

She argued: “Whilst it is right and proper that the pay of low-paid workers should be underpinned, for most workers this increase is still below the budget uplift received by Holyrood from Westminster.

“Far too many of our key workers have been left out in the cold.”

Ms Foyer said it is “deeply disappointing” that the Scottish Government had not “been able to better reward key workers”.

Mike Kirby, Scottish secretary at the Unison trade union, said the wage increase announced “falls short of a decent pay rise for public sector workers”.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the ‘vital role’ played by public sector workers, Unison said (Ben Birchall/PA)

He said: “The pandemic has shown the vital role of workers in public services across Scotland. Their efforts in the last year have been heroic.

“Those working in public services deserve a pay settlement recognising the sacrifice so many have made over the pandemic, tackling real terms pay cuts of the past decade and showing how much the Government values the role they play in Scotland.

“Pay rises for public service workers will support families and communities. They spend their wages in local shops and businesses. That is the most effective mechanism the Government has to begin to rebuild our economy after Covid-19.”

Teachers’ leaders also voiced their concerns about the pay policy, with EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan stating that the “announcement of an effective pay freeze will be met with deep disappointment by Scotland’s teachers, who have been working flat-out throughout the pandemic to offer as much support as possible to young people”.

He added: “Politicians of all parties, including those in the Scottish Government, have repeatedly lauded the efforts of teachers during the pandemic and have highlighted the importance of teachers in maintaining education provision for young people during this crisis.

“It appears, however, that the Scottish Government is failing to match that rhetoric and instead is effectively seeking to freeze the pay of the teachers, rather than properly recognising their value.”

Teacher pay is determined by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers. with Mr Flanagan saying his union had only recently submitted a pay claim for this year “calling for proper recognition of the value of teachers”.

He said the EIS would be “seeking further discussions in that forum”.

Similarly NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said it was “vital” that the Scottish Government recognises the contribution made by schools staff.

He stated: “Over the last few months, parents and the public have thanked teachers for the tremendous contribution they have made in supporting children’s learning during the coronavirus crisis.

“It is therefore vital that the Scottish Government recognises, values and rewards the work of teachers too.”

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