PCS mythbuster number 3 – The country can’t afford a pay rise at the moment

22 Feb 2021

In the third in a series of myth-busting articles as part of the PCS pay campaign we look at the claim that the country can’t afford a pay rise at the moment and our members and other key public sector workers should be happy to have a job.

Think-tank the New Economics Foundation says that a public sector pay rise is both affordable and will play an important role in retention, recruitment and Covid recovery. 

The NEF's head of economics, Lydia Prieg, has said: "Key workers play a vital role in our communities and have held our economy together throughout this crisis.

“Our analysis shows that public sector pay rises are not only a just reward for the workers protecting us on the frontline, but they will also boost demand and strengthen the economy in a time of recession.  

"It should be a no-brainer for government. Paying our public sector workers properly can help us through this crisis and support our economic recovery on the other side. But it is vital that this is new money, and not making further demands on stretched departmental budgets." 

Kam Gill from the TUC wrote in a blog post that plans for a public sector pay freeze were a “hugely regressive step” by the government.

“Public sector workers have already suffered from almost a decade of low and lost pay,” he wrote. 

“We need them to earn a decent wage that recognises the vital work they do and helps promote growth in the economy.”

Decade of low and lost pay

Public sector workers have already suffered from almost a decade of low and lost pay.  

After 2010 their pay was frozen, and then capped so that any increases in pay stayed well behind rises in the cost of living. 

TUC analysis found that some public sector workers have lost as much as £3,000 from the value of their wages.  

And he made the crucial point that: “When demand in the economy is low, because people have less money so can’t buy as much as they would otherwise, increased spending power translates into more demand and so more money going into local economies. 

“Key workers have earned their pay rise. Attempts to make them pay for the pandemic are unjust. But they’re also unnecessary. We can afford to pay our key workers a decent wage and its time we did just that.”

Fair pay day

PCS is launching a campaign action for every member to email the chancellor directly before the budget, members will be emailed about this in the next few days. Taking this action will be a theme of our Fair Pay Day activities on Friday (26).

We are also working closely with the TUC on a series of events across the country where Conservative MPs have agreed to directly meet public sector workers to hear their concerns. PCS members are speaking at some of these meetings alongside colleagues from other unions.

On the eve of the budget at 6pm on 2 March, the TUC is holding a mass rally for a workers' budget and PCS is encouraging all activists to attend this as the campaign steps up.

If you want to get more involved in the pay campaign and want to help by lobbying your own MP email campaigns@pcs.org.uk 

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