Public sector earnings rise modestly in line with rest of economy


Public sector earnings rise modestly in line with rest of economy

Increases in average earnings for key public sector jobs - firefighters, nurses, police officers, social workers and teachers - have mostly been fairly modest since 2000, despite newspaper headlines about a “pay bonanza” in the public services, according to research by Incomes Data Services.

The figures, which are based on an analysis of data from the Government’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), show that average earnings for most of these occupations have been broadly stable in relation to average earnings for all employees.

Police pay lagging behind

But the main exception here is police officers - their relative position worsened over the period, falling from 135% to 119% of the average for all employees.

As IDS explains, this comes at a time when the home secretary has announced a major review of police pay and the wage formula for annual pay rises. The government would like to replace these indexation arrangements, arguing that “we cannot continue with arrangements which produce rises beyond the level which police authorities can afford to pay without detriment to service delivery”. It has also said that a review body could be introduced to determine police pay rises, in a manner similar to the arrangements in place for nurses, prison officers and teachers.

IDS points out that it has long been the case that during periods of economic recovery, like the present, earnings for police officers tend to lag behind those for the whole economy, though during recessions they tend to do comparatively better. This is partly due to the operation of the formula for annual police pay rises, which follows pay movements elsewhere in the economy, and has been in place in one form or another since 1979.


Row over September 2006 wage deal for police officers

The government has come under fire in recent months for alleged interference into what are supposed to be independent pay-setting processes covering certain groups of public sector workers, says IDS.

The proposals follow a row over the September 2006 pay rise for police. The government offered just 2.2%, despite the police pay formula indicating that there should be increases of 3%.

The arbitrator eventually awarded 3%, ruling that it would not be appropriate to offer a pay settlement lower than that indicated by the formula at such a late stage, and in the process setting aside such a long-standing wage mechanism. The figure of 3% was pitched at the median increase in private sector non-manual pay settlements for the year to July 2006.

A final word

“Police officers’ earnings, like those of their public sector colleagues, have been rising at rates which are not much different to those we have been witnessing in the private sector. Far from being way ahead, public sector earnings are in line with those across the rest of the economy.” - Ken Mulkearn, editor of IDS Pay Report.

Want to know more?

Title: “Earnings for key public sector jobs – ASHE shows modest earnings growth despite pay restructuring”, IDS Pay Report 966, December 2006.

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