‘It’s not fair’: Public sector workers react to fall statement

Britain faces the worst hit in living standards since Jeremy Hunt announced sweeping tax hikes and spending cuts heralding a new wave of austerity. Meanwhile, the public sector has seen wage growth fall behind that of the private sector at the fastest pace on record.

The Chancellor has offered an additional £3.3billion for the NHS and £2.3billion for schools a year and an increase in real terms for ministries, albeit at a slower pace. Here, workers in these sectors are reacting to his fall statement, suggesting the sums are less than what is needed to cope with spiraling costs and avoid strikes.

The teacher

Nancy Budler, 53, who taught at her secondary school in West Yorkshire for 26 years, says Hunt’s budget “is still not focused enough on education. Funding salary rewards along with energy costs and inflation will always make it very difficult to balance the books.

Budler supports the National Education Union strike. “I am a committed teacher who loves her school. I wouldn’t go on strike if it wasn’t necessary… We have no choice if we want to protect both teachers and our schools and our students.

She says teacher salary rewards should not come from school budgets. “Schools face a number of competing factors, including rising energy costs and food inflation. You have to ask – we are not a for-profit organization, this money comes from students.

She says using school money to fund pay raises would prevent her from buying textbooks for the department she heads. “It’s not fair and it’s not fair. The government is making a political choice not to fund our salary.

“I hope government-funded, inflation-linked salary increases will help teachers stay in this increasingly demanding profession. Private companies talk about high salaries that attract the best in the field – how do they expect to recruit the best teachers and keep us in the field? »

David hopes the Public and Commercial Services Union strikes will make the government take notice. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA

The official

David, a 30-year-old civil servant in Sheffield, has seen his savings run ‘to zero’ by inflation and the cost of living crisis and believes Hunt’s budget ‘will only make things worse’.

“The support for the bills is not enough, and the windfall tax on energy companies is pitiful given their huge profits,” he says. “The halts to planned increases in tax-exempt amounts are not welcome – when there are plenty of other ways to raise tax on high earners without hitting everyone.”

The 30-year-old says civil service salaries must rise in line with inflation. “Below-inflation salary increases in the civil service have meant for me that things have become more expensive and the amount I have left at the end of each month after I have paid my mortgage and my loans declined.

“The only way for anyone to get a meaningful pay rise in the public service is to get a promotion. For many, however, they are not interested or able to take on the added responsibility of promotion, which means the more junior grades find themselves earning less each year in real terms.

David espère que les grèves du Syndicat des services publics et commerciaux inciteront le gouvernement à en prendre note. « Les fonctionnaires de l’administration centrale sont souvent oubliés là où les infirmières et les enseignants font l’actualité. Ils méritent certainement un meilleur salaire, mais nous aussi. J’espère un engagement à augmenter les salaires en fonction de l’inflation et une augmentation ponctuelle pour compenser la perte de salaire au cours de la dernière décennie. PCS demande plus que cela, mais c’est le minimum auquel nous devrions nous attendre.

L’infirmière du NHS, Alex, dit que l’avenir semble très incertain. Photographie : Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

L’infirmière

Alex, une infirmière des services d’urgence de 31 ans dans un hôpital du sud-ouest de l’Angleterre, a été ravie d’entendre Hunt s’engager à augmenter le financement des soins sociaux pour atténuer les problèmes de sortie dans les hôpitaux. « Il faut espérer [mean] more hospital beds and less stress on ambulances and emergency services.

The extra £3.3billion announced by Hunt for the NHS is less than half of the £7billion bosses say are needed. “He hasn't said how it's going to be used or invested,” Alex says. “He also did not mention how he planned to avoid [nurses striking] or how he planned to support the nurses, which leaves the future very uncertain.

Alex, who is a Band 6 nurse and member of the MRC, says she supports the union strike “because nurses are not paid enough for what we do…Nurses struggle every day – [especially] the five in the group, the ones on the shop floor who do the heavy lifting of the NHS, who work 12-hour shifts. They don't have the means to live. For what we have to deal with every day during the shift, this is not good.

She says understaffing on the wards means nurses are overworked and risk burnout. “Staff are only getting worse – when I first got qualified you had up to eight patients on one ward, now it's up to 14. You don't have breaks – I don't even go not have a drink or use the toilet until I get home,” she said.

“When I started there was a lot more support. Many today cannot continue in their profession and leave prematurely due to burnout. We save lives and we don't even get a living wage for all the hard work we do.

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