Ministers have recommended NHS workers, police officers, teachers and judges are all given a 3.5% pay rise for the next financial year.
Government departments have written to the independent pay review bodies of each sector to submit their evidence and say what figure is deemed affordable by them and the Treasury.
But a number of unions are calling for much higher pay awards for the last financial year before negotiations even begin for 2023/24, and the figure for the following 12 months may not meet expectations.
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Starting with the NHS – including doctors and dentists – the Department for Health and Social Care said: “Through the current financial settlement provided by HM Treasury to the department and reprioritisation decisions, funding is available for pay awards up to 3.5%.”
The document said anything above this level “would require trade-offs for public service delivery or further government borrowing at a time when headroom against fiscal rules is historically low and sustainable public finances are vital in the fight against inflation”.
Rachel Harrison, national secretary for the GMB union that represents ambulance workers and other NHS staff, called the offer “a disgrace”.
“Today’s submission to the pay review body shows this government’s true colours,” she said.
“Ambulance workers – and others across the NHS including cleaners, porters and care workers – who are the backbone of the health service deserve better.
“Ministers have no intention of recognising the true value of the entire workforce. It’s a disgrace and will do nothing to end GMB’s NHS and ambulance strikes.
“This backroom deal with some sections of the workforce is a tawdry example of ministers playing divide and rule politics with people’s lives.”
Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, said the government “couldn’t have done better than this” if it was actively trying to worsen the NHS crisis and warned it “could prove the final straw” for staff questioning whether to leave the NHS.
She called for pay talks for all health unions as she hit out at the government for only meeting with the RCN.
“Ministers need to start behaving like grown-ups and up their game substantially,” she added.
The recommendation from the police came from the Home Office, which pointed to forces having “previously indicated that a pay award above 2% for 2023/24 may be affordable”.
The document said the department was carrying on discussions with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners but added: “Considering the additional funding available from the police funding settlement for 2023/24, and forces seeking to maximise efficiencies, our current assessment is that there is scope for forces to budget up to a 3.5% pay award within the existing settlement.”
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For teachers, the document from the Department for Education said a 3.5% rise – including 3% awards for experienced teachers and raising starting salaries to £30,000 – “will be manageable within schools’ budgets next year, on average, following the additional funding provided at autumn statement”.
But ministers also said the amount available could be impacted by energy costs faced by schools adding: “It is difficult to forecast energy costs. Different energy scenarios mean that more headroom could be available than the 3.5% currently estimated.
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“This could allow for additional investment in areas which benefit pupils, including, for example, a higher pay award.”
The National Education Union joint secretary, Kevin Courtney, said he was “pleased” the government is offering formal talks and he hopes it means they are willing to talk about pay after previous talks this year have failed to result in an offer.
But he said their offer of talks “still contains no suggestion that they are willing to talk about pay rises this year”.
Mr Courtney added that the Department for Education’s suggestion of a 3% pay rise for experienced teachers is less than the current inflation forecast for quarter three year so will amount “to a further pay cut”.
He said there was nothing in the letter to suggest they should call off next week’s teacher strikes but there is still time for an offer to be made before the union’s national executive meets this Saturday.
And when it came to judges, the Ministry of Justice proposed that “pay for all judicial office holders should increase by 3.5% in 2023/24”, adding it would cost £23m.