Union leaders demand ‘decisive action’ on public sector pay

Bosses at the Scottish Trades Union Congress said workers had lost out on more than £4000.

Union leaders demand ‘decisive action’ on public sector pay Getty Images

Union leaders are demanding the next Scottish government take “decisive action” on public sector say – claiming workers have seen salaries fall by 15% in real terms over the last decade.

Bosses at the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said that public sector pay had “lagged behind” inflation since 2011 – adding that for the “typical” worker this meant they had lost out on more than £4000.

With unions warning of possible industrial unrest as a result of the issue, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said that the next Scottish government must “take decisive action to restore public sector pay”.

She spoke out as the organisation published a new briefing paper on pay ahead of its annual congress, which gets under way on Monday.

More than half of Scotland’s key workers are employed in the public sector, it noted.

The STUC also said that the death rate for key workers from coronavirus between March and December 2020 was 40% higher than for the average working-age person.

But it added: “Very few have seen a significant pay increase. A third of Scotland’s 920,000 key workers are paid less than £10 an hour, while women are twice as likely to be key workers than men.”

The STUC said a “significant investment” was needed to restore public sector pay – but added that boosting the wages of workers could help tackle child poverty while also supporting local economies.

It also called on political parties to support power over employment law being devolved to Scotland – saying this would allow ministers here to increase the minimum wage, ban zero-hour contracts and prohibit companies from using controversial fire and rehire policies, which can see workers’ terms and conditions cut.

Ms Foyer said: “The people that have kept our society going over the last year are not hedge fund managers or millionaires. They are cleaners, carers, nurses, supermarket workers, cleansing workers, delivery workers and postal workers.

“They are low-paid, predominantly women, key workers who have risked their health and wellbeing to keep us safe and continue to do so.

“Many of these workers are employed by the public sector or rely on contracts from the public sector and it is in the gift of the next Scottish government to meaningfully increase their pay.”

She added: “We need the next Scottish government to take decisive action to restore public sector pay. These workers have seen real-term wage cuts over the last decade and increasing their pay would narrow the gender pay gap, reduce child poverty, boost local economies, and support inclusive growth from the bottom up.”