Penarth Times Column – Scrap the Cap

This week I will be meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and headteachers from across the constituency to discuss a range of issues put forward by headteachers. The recent UK Government decision to keep the 1% cap on teachers’ pay was disappointing. The cap, which has been in place since 2010, will mean another real-terms pay cut for more than 500,000 teachers in England and Wales. The pay review body expressed concern that keeping the pay cap would not help to motivate, recruit and retain good teachers.

The UK Government decision over teacher’s pay sent a signal over pay for the more than 5 million public sector workers. After 7 years of austerity and pay restraint public service workers have suffered a significant real terms pay cut 14% and do not feel valued by the UK Government.  That real sense of grievance is driving the Scrap the Cap campaign in the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says nurses have suffered a 14% pay cut in real terms since 2010 because of the UK government cap on public sector pay that is likely to continue until 2020. Years of real-terms pay cuts have left too many struggling to make ends meet. The RCN, Unison and other trade unions have warned of the dangers to patient safety as a result of the cap. In Wales we are trying to address this with our Train, Work, and Live campaign and unlike England we have kept the NHS education bursary. Scrapping the cap and giving our hardworking professionals the pay they deserve would go a long way in helping to retain and recruit staff.

Following the General election, UK Cabinet Ministers openly admitted that Tory spending cuts were a real cause of anger on the doorstep. There is an open briefing war between Cabinet members over whether to ease the constraints on public sector pay. We need a change from the UK Government not just warm words.

I have written to Jeremy Hunt act and remove the cap on pay. The UK Government cannot hide behind the pay review body. The UK Government decides whether it will provide the funds to move beyond the cap. The unavoidable truth is that we don’t have the resources to break the pay cap. That is hardly surprising given the continuing UK Government cuts to the Welsh Government’s budget. An extra one per cent increase in pay for NHS workers in Wales would cost the Welsh Government £60 million. This would inevitably mean an NHS pay rise on the back of redundancies in other public services, which NHS staff don’t want.  I want the UK Government to finally change course and ensure that our incredibly hardworking dedicated professionals get the pay rise they deserve.