Paralysis from Tory leadership race is damaging pay talks, say doctors and teachers

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The Guardian

Talks over crucial pay deals and funding across the public sector are being damaged by government paralysis as a result of the Tory leadership race, senior teachers and doctors have warned.

Autumn and the new year could see an unprecedented wave of strike action among teaching staff and doctors after a pay deal that is set to see their wages falling in real terms in the face of the cost of living crisis. There have also been warnings that the failure to provide extra funding for the increases will plunge public services deeper into crisis.

Figures from both teaching and health unions said that with a new prime minister due to be in place by the autumn, they feared the temporary status of the current government was affecting the ability of ministers to take the necessary decisions.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said that when challenged over funding increases for next year in a call last week, newly appointed education secretary James Cleverly “wouldn’t answer straightforwardly and had the very good excuse that he might not be secretary of state”.

“This does indicate that they’re not firing on all cylinders, and that’s not good,” he said. “They are not dealing with the things that matter.” NHS staff are to receive a rise of at least 4.5%, while teachers will have at least a 5% increase. However, inflation is currently running at 9.1% and is expected to rise to 11% later in the year, according to the Bank of England.

Courtney also said he feared that ministers would not be battling the Treasury for resources because of uncertainty over their positions. “A secretary of state who was doing the right thing would be really fighting the Treasury now, saying that this pay award isn’t enough and pointing to the fact that they’ve got very big problems with teacher recruitment and retention which are impacting the quality of education.

“The currentThis crop of ministers won’t be doing that: they want to be ministers in the new government, so they won’t want to rock the boat at this stage. I’ve got no confidence that they are fighting for schools in the way they should be fighting for them. It is directly germane to the standard of education that children will have.”

It comes after five major education unions wrote a joint letter last week warning of a funding crisis if pay increases were not matched by additional funding to schools. It is expected schools will have to meet the additional costs from their own budgets. Including the increases announced last week, the real value of teachers’ salaries will have still fallen by 12% since 2010.

Cleverly has stated that he is fully committed to the job since being appointed education secretary this month. A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This year’s pay award is a responsible solution which recognises the hard work of teachers and supports with the cost of living, and the sound management of schools’ budgets. By contrast, double-digit pay awards for public sector workers would lead to sustained higher levels of inflation, which would have a far bigger impact on people’s real incomes in the long run. Funding for these pay awards will come from the generous school funding settlement at last year’s spending review.”

Junior doctors are angry at being excluded from the NHS pay deals, after agreeing a multi-year pay deal a few years ago. Dr Mike Kemp, from the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said the “caretaker” status of the current government was damaging negotiations and making industrial action more likely. Excluding junior doctors from the pay deal was “pushing [them] towards industrial action”, he added. “That is obviously not something that any junior doctor takes lightly.” Progress had been made, he said, but it had been “upended by the recent turmoil in Westminster”.

A government source said junior doctors were not “in scope” for the deal, suggesting they had not been excluded. A department of health and social care spokesperson said: “Junior doctors are in a multi-year pay and contract reform deal. Next year will be the right time to consider pay.

This deal came alongside £90m of additional investment.

More than 1 million NHS staff will receive a pay rise of at least £1,400.”

July 24, 2022 at 11:48AM Michael Savage Policy Editor

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