Budget 2012: reject regional pay

One of the many attacks on workers in the budget is the proposal to introduce regional pay in the public sector, including the civil service. Katrine Williams, the chair of PCS Wales, said: “Holding down public sector pay in Wales will damage pay rates across the board. Poverty is the problem here which won’t be solved by the Con-Dems stealing £1.25 billion out of public sector workers’ pay packets.”

In 2004, when this idea was last proposed, by a Labour government, the PCS civil service union commissioned a report by the thinktank the Bevan Foundation. This outlined the “complexity, inefficiency and likely disproportionate effect any move to regional pay would have on public sector workers, particularly women who comprise the majority of the public sector workforce.

“The private sector, in general, has abandoned the concept of local/regional pay. Tesco tried it a few years back but have reverted back to a zonal system of pay.

“If the government does want greater efficiency then it should return to national bargaining as an efficiency measure.

“PCS does not agree with any form of localised regional pay for two basic reasons:

“It is fundamentally unfair to pay two employees, working for the same employer on the same grade and doing the same duties, differing pay rates on the basis of the location of their workplace.

“There is no evidence that such a scheme would benefit local job-markets. It is more likely to have a detrimental effect on the local economies, in already disadvantaged areas and would simply result in a deepening of the inequality that exists between London/South East and the rest of the UK.”

Katrine Williams said “PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions haven’t had an inflation proofed pay rise for five years and making ends meet has become increasingly difficult with soaring costs of the essentials – rent, food and bills. It won’t help the Welsh economy to drive our wages down further – we’ll just have even less to spend in our local communities.

“Now is the time for trade unionists from the public and private sectors to all stand together against the Con-Dem government’s attacks on pay, pensions, services and the welfare state.”

This is underlined by a worker in the licensing department (DVLA) in Swansea: “Unofficially, DVLA already has regional pay. Our pay is substantially lower than the rest of the transport department (our parent department). Management tries to justify this on ‘recruit and retain’ principles. In other words, in a low pay/high unemployment area like Swansea they don’t need to pay much to get people to work for them.

“The new measures in the Budget make this official and could make things worse. This is pure exploitation. We are not second class citizens and we deserve pay parity with colleagues throughout the UK.”

The TUC has warned that reducing public sector wages by 1% would hit local economies by at least £1.7 billion a year.