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Public Sector Wages Pushed Below Private Sector

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Pay pinch worse in public sector than private sector for 11 of 12 months in 2016 as inflation leaps to 2.3%.

Private sector wages appear to have outstripped public sector pay for the first time since the financial crash, GMB can reveal.

The shocking figures emerge on the same day the NHS Pay Review Body’s made a recommendation of 1% - within the “cruel” pay restraints imposed by government. [1]

The Health Secretary’s derisory decision has been made just days after inflation jumped to 2.3% [2], further squeezing NHS workers’ living standards.

GMB, the union for public sector workers, analysed ONS Average Weekly Earnings estimates and found pay was higher in the private sector than in the public sector in 11 out of 12 months last year – the first time the private sector outperformed the public sector on the measure since 2008. [3]

Public sector workers are being hit by a decade of real terms pay cuts - with hopsital porters (£9,679) and and 999 call handlers (£11,263) among those set to lose the most. [4]

GMB released a major report called 'End the Public Sector Pay Pinch' [5] to coincide with the launch of their campaign to end the ongoing decade long salary squeeze, which has already seen public sector salaries lose around a tenth of their value over the last seven years of pay restrictions.

Research highlighted by the GMB reveals that private sector competition for public sector staff is associated with higher hospital fatality rates and worse GCSE scores, [6] while 75 per cent of the public support above inflation pay rises for public sector workers. [7]

GMB, the union for NHS workers, will write to Jeremy Hunt urging him to think again following the NHS real terms wage cut.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:

“Public sector workers desperately need a real pay rise, not the miserly and cruel decision being imposed on them by the Government.

“Dedicated professionals are hurting and the quality of services is deteriorating for everyone else.

“Theresa May talks about helping those who are ‘just about managing,’ but it’s clear that she doesn’t include over five million public sector workers.

"Imposing a 1 per cent settlement is an insult to our selfless NHS staff and other public sector workers – who keep us safe day in, day out.

“GMB will write to Jeremy Hunt urging him to think again on this unnecessarily vicious pay decision.

“Public servants are enduring an even worse squeeze than under Thatcher and Major, and most have not seen a real-terms pay increase in almost a decade.

“Most of the public support a proper pay rise for the public sector staff, and these latest figures should be a wake up call for Ministers.

“Theresa May needs to put her money where her mouth is and give public sector workers the above-inflation pay deal they deserve.

“It's not on - this pay pinch must end."


Contact: GMB press Office on GMB press office on 07958 156846 or at

Notes to editors



[3] See attached table.

The Average Weekly Earnings measure is reached by dividing an estimate of the overall public and private sector wage bills (including bonus payments) by total number of employees. Alternative wage estimates are produced in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), and the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

[4] GMB analysis reveals that without a change in policy workers can expect average real terms pay cuts, some running into tens of thousands of pounds: ?

· Hospital porter: lost £7,285 since 2010 and set to lose a further £2,394 by 2020 (total loss 2010-20: £9,679)

?· 999 call handler: lost £8,646 since 2010 and set to lose a further £2,617 by 2020 (total loss 2010-20: £11,263) ?

· Qualified residential care worker: lost £8,624 since 2010 and is set to lose a further £3,085 by 2020 (total loss 2010-20: £11,709) ???

· Staff nurse: lost £14,572 since 2010 and is set to lose a further £3,788 by 2020 (total loss 2010-20: £18,360) ?

· Midwife: lost £18,011 since 2010 and is set to lose a further £4,691 by 2020 (total loss 2010-20: £22,702)

[5] GMB, End the Public Sector Pay Pinch, 08 March 2017:

[6] ‘Propper and Van Reenen (2010) find that as private sector wage opportunities for nurses increase, hospital death rates also tend to rise. Similarly, Britton and Propper (2014) find that GCSE results decline as private sector wage opportunities for teachers improve.’ IFS, Public Sector Pay in the UK, 2014 -

[7] Survation poll commissioned by GMB, 08 March 2017:

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