UK gives below-inflation pay rises to millions of public-sector staff

Unions in Britain are demanding bigger raises for workers, while ministers worry about the danger of a wage-price spiral.
PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain announced below-inflation pay rises for millions of workers including police, doctors and teachers on Tuesday (July 19) as part of a pay review for public sector staff that comes amid soaring prices and growing industrial unrest.

With inflation set to top 11 per cent later this year, the increases given to millions of public sector workers are being closely watched as ministers warn of the danger of a wage-price spiral and unions demand bigger raises for their members.

The pay awards included up to 9.3 per cent for low-earners in the National Health Service and an 8.9 per cent starting salary boost for some teachers, although other increases, such as those for senior military and civil servants were less than half that.

"Pay awards this year strike a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of teachers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer, not increasing the country's debt further, and being careful not to drive even higher prices in the future," education minister James Cleverly said.

The increases are part of annual pay reviews due for almost half of some 5.7 million public sector workers and come after more than a decade of freezes and constrained raises in many sectors.

"The government promised rewards for the dedication of the public sector workforce during the pandemic. What they have delivered instead, in real terms, is a kick in the teeth," Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite labour union, said.

British consumer price inflation is hovering around 40-year highs and is predicted to reach 11 per cent later this year, contributing to strikes over pay that have already disrupted transport networks and threaten a number of other services.

Public sector pay growth has lagged that of the private sector, averaging just 1.5 per cent over the past year compared with 8 per cent for the latter.

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