Unions fear Osborne’s plans will drive workers to better-paid regions, leaving large parts of the country with shortage of public servants

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Unions have attacked government plans to introduce regional pay, accusing Chancellor George Osborne – who they describe as a grotesque reverse Robin Hood – of taking a wrecking ball to the public sector.

Eton-educated Osborne, who has a private fortune estimated at £4m, is expected to announce the plans in tomorrow’s Budget.

But the move was condemned by UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, who said the Chancellor needs to take a reality check because he would be taking the country in totally the wrong direction.

Dave Prentis said: “If the Chancellor wants to stimulate economic recovery in his Budget, local pay bargaining is not the way to do it. It will take the country in totally the wrong direction. Local pay pushes depressed areas further into depression by cutting off spending in local businesses.

“It took four years to negotiate Agenda for Change in the NHS which successfully established equal pay and pay linked to training. If the Chancellor plans to break it all up, we will have the sorry sight of hospitals competing against each other to recruit and retain staff.

“In the NHS nurses, paramedics, therapists and midwives are among the workers suffering for a second year without any increase in pay, to compensate for rising costs. The dismantling of Agenda for Change would be the government’s final nail in the coffin of our NHS.

“Local government workers already face a third year without a pay rise and cutting pay further, will take many more families onto the breadline and onto benefits, with taxpayers picking up the bill.

“The Chancellor would risk plunging the whole of the public sector back into a recruitment crisis if pay is depressed any further. There is a whole raft of jobs where pay in the private sector is considerably higher.

“It is clear that Osborne has either run out of ideas, or simply does not understand the dynamics of the labour market. The idea of local pay has been dumped as old fashioned by most big companies, with the exception of a few supermarket chains.

“The Budget should be used to stimulate the whole of the economy, not depress parts of the country further.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Driving down pay even further at the same time as cutting public sector salaries and pensions, and planning to cut the 50p tax rate, would not only be cruel it would be economically incompetent and counterproductive.

“Local economies – already suffering from Tory-led, politically motivated butchery – are crying out for investment, not more cuts.

“It appears that next week’s budget is shaping up to include the exact opposite of what our communities need to help them get back on their feet.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “George Osborne is desperate to smash an enormous wrecking ball into our public sector.  It makes no operational sense whatsoever to impose a structure that says a nurse or paramedic in the north east of the country as worth less than someone doing the same job in the south east.

“All this will do is drive workers to the better paid regions, leaving large parts of the country without the professionals essential to sustain local services. Even if the plan is impose these new rates centrally, it will still require a new, expensive layer of bureaucracy to implement all these hundreds of local deals – money that could much better spent on frontline services.

“And let’s nail the myth that this move is about allowing the private sector to catch up on pay; it is nothing to do with that and everything to do with lowering entry costs for a private sector desperate to get its hands on our services.

“This is yet another a shocking assault on the living standards of millions of ordinary working people by their own government, and comes hard on the heels of a three year pay cut which will slash wages by around 20 per cent.

“George Osborne’s Budget will reveal him as a grotesque reversal of Robin Hood, rewarding the super-wealthy by allowing them to skip over their tax responsibilities while mugging the low waged.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “On one level this is old news, as the Chancellor announced in his last Autumn statement that he would be looking at local and regional pay for public service workers.

“The independent Review Body, which consider teachers’ pay, only recently has been given a remit to examine this whole issue.

“It appears, however, that so impatient is the Chancellor to continue his punishing pursuit of public service workers’ pay and conditions that he can’t even risk the Review Body coming to a different conclusion and so is poised to make the decision himself.

“As usual the Chancellor holds up the private sector as the comparator. The inconvenient truth he chooses to ignore is that large organisations in the private sector have national pay and conditions frameworks, Tesco, Marks and Spencer’s and John Lewis to name but three.

“They recognise that it makes good sense, is financially more cost effective and underpins customer entitlement to consistent and high quality delivery of service, regardless of post code.

“Children and young people, wherever they live, are entitled to be taught by teachers who have pay which recognises and rewards them as highly skilled professionals and conditions of service which support them in working effectively to raise standards.

“Surely if it’s good enough for Tesco customers, it’s good enough for our children and young people.”


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