UNISON, the UK’s largest union said that the latest figures from the ONS on the public / private sector pay divide were in danger of being used out of context to peddle a myth that public sector workers are overpaid for the same work as those in the private sector.
Across the public sector, workers such as hospital cleaners, cooks and
porters or home care and residential care workers have been contracted
out of the public sector, but still work in it. These lowest paid
privatised jobs are counted as private sector workers - skewing the pay
Where public sector workers do get paid more, it is a reflection of the
professional training necessary to carry out their jobs such as teachers
and social workers or reflect high paid jobs such as army generals,
judges and senior civil servants.
UNISON assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said:
“It is time that we nailed the myth of public sector workers enjoying a
pay premium once and for all. The opposite is true as they have been
hit hard by the Government’s pay freeze and many are fighting an uphill
battle just to make ends meet.
“The great divide that the government would like us all to believe
exists is a fallacy; their disastrous economic policies are the reason
workers and their families across the UK are struggling. It is the old
trick of divide and conquer to justify yet more swingeing cuts to the
public sector and it must be challenged and exposed at every
A new factsheet from the union on this very issue highlights the key
points that it said were frequently missing from the analysis of public /
private sector pay, including:
The impact of outsourcing:
A high proportion of the lowest-paid public sector workers have been
outsourced. A catering assistant in an NHS hospital for example, will be
counted as a private sector worker
The number of professional staff:
Many public sector roles, including those relating to healthcare
delivery, education and the emergency services require workers to have
specific professional training. Average pay in the public sector
reflects the specialism needed for many of these roles.
The cost of bonuses:
Neither the Labour Force Survey (LFS) nor the Annual Survey of Hours and
Earnings (ASHE) data covers the main bonus period in the private
sector, which can exaggerate the ‘pay premium’ of the public sector.
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