TUC survey shows 65% of people think regional pay will make it harder to schools to attract and retain good teachers


Almost two-thirds of voters believe that the introduction of local pay rates for public sector employees would make it harder for schools in low-pay areas to attract and retain good teachers, according to a new poll published today by the TUC.

In the same poll – undertaken on behalf of the TUC by pollsters Survation – three-quarters of voters (75 per cent) said they felt it was important that the government conducts an independent economic impact assessment on the possible consequences that regional pay could have for local communities before proceeding any further.

The government has asked the public sector pay review bodies to report from next month on how plans to introduce a system of localised pay bargaining for public sector employees might work, but the Chancellor announced in the Budget that some parts of government could press ahead this year.

The TUC is concerned that little thought seems to have been given by the government to the negative economic impact that lower pay rates for public sector workers might have on already blighted regional economies.

When asked how paying teachers working in low-pay parts of the UK less than those in areas with higher wages would affect schools, a clear majority – 65 per cent – of voters thought the move would make it harder for schools in low-pay areas to recruit and retain good quality staff. Only 21 per cent disagreed.

On the subject of the need to explore in more detail the possible economic consequences of varying pay rates for public sector workers, 79 per cent of Liberal Democrat and 74 per cent of Conservative supporters agreed that an independent economic assessment was needed before ministers press ahead with their plans for local pay.

Since the government announced plans for introducing local pay in this year’s Budget, the TUC has expressed concern that any move towards local or regional salaries could lead to a ‘brain drain’ of public service professionals who would be more likely to go after jobs in the more prosperous areas of the UK where pay rates were higher.

As a consequence the TUC has repeatedly called on ministers to abandon their regional pay plans, believing them to be unfair, divisive, hard to implement and with the risk that billions will be taken out of local economies, accelerating the already growing north-south divide.

Commenting on the poll, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This research shows that the government really needs to stop, listen and think again on regional pay. These are plans that could see over two million public sector workers suffering an almost permanent pay freeze. Taking money out of the pockets of hardworking dinner ladies, teachers and nurses will not only increase the financial pressure on already hard-pressed families but in undermining their spending power will hit also local high streets hard.

“Nothing has been thought through properly and rather than carry on regardless of the impact that these damaging plans could have, ministers should look before they leap any further. Holding back the pay of public sector workers who live beyond the South East will simply drive down wages in poorer areas of the country, cause more business closures and significantly lessen the UK’s chances of growth.

“Nurses’ and teachers’ pay should be set by the job they are doing rather than how wealthy their local area is. Paying someone more to save lives or teach a child in a rich area is not only deeply unfair, it also makes no sense at all.”

Chief Executive of Survation Damian Lyons-Lowe said: “When presented with questions about the potential unintended consequences of the effect regional pay schemes may have, the UK public is genuinely concerned that schools will have issues with attracting and retaining good teachers. The public’s view on the importance of an independent study on the economic impact of regional pay is high across supporters of all of the main political parties. A deeper look by the government at these issues would be well advised.”

The TUC has commissioned independent economic experts to assess the impact that local pay could have on the UK’s regional economies in the short and the longer-term. These findings will be published early next month.

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