Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Why are the Tories dragging their feet over public sector pay?

Steve Barclay (Credit: Getty images)

Why haven’t ministers sent their submissions to the independent pay review bodies for their sectors? That’s the question being asked of Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Health Secretary Steve Barclay, both of whose departments have missed their deadlines for submissions on next year’s pay settlement. 

Some hope that a more generous pay settlement for next year might make it harder for trade unions to continue striking

Keegan was out and about on the airwaves dealing with the start of the teaching strikes this morning, and explained that the education department had ‘halted’ the submission on future pay. She told the Today programme:

‘We want to keep open those discussions about future pay and I didn’t want to set something while we could still have constructive discussions.’ 

Barclay was asked a similar question when he appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee yesterday. He offered a little more detail, saying:

‘Once we completed ours, some time ago, there’s been a need to wait for other departments to also have those discussions. That is, across government, a process co-ordinated by the Treasury. And once the Treasury is happy for the department to submit this, we are ready to do so.’

Some in Whitehall hope that a more generous pay settlement for the next year might make it harder for trade unions to continue a programme of strikes. If voters see that workers are getting more money for the next year they will wonder why there are still picket lines.

The current walkouts are about the pay settlement for 2022/23, and there is widespread public support for nurses and teachers in particular, with most voters blaming the government for the disruption rather than the unions.

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Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel Hardman
Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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