The Tories are causing a potential ‘exodus’ of public sector workers

A public sector nurse writing in a hospital
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Nearly two million public sector workers are thinking about quitting their jobs, with nearly half saying it’s because of pay. These are the results of new research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which says the Tories are causing a “mass exodus” of workers from the public sector. And it’s the NHS which will be the biggest casualty of over a decade of Tory-led pay cuts.

Brutal Tory public sector pay cuts

Successive Tory governments have repeatedly cut public sector pay in real terms. For example, the then-coalition government froze pay in 2010 for two years. Then, it imposed years of real-terms cuts by freezing pay rises at 1%. As the TUC noted, the end result is that the Tories – for the NHS, compared to 2010 – have cut:

  • £4,300 from nurses’ pay.
  • £5,600 from paramedics’ pay
  • £1,300 from porters’ pay.
  • £3,200 from maternity care assistants’ pay.

It’s a similar story in education, where the Tories have wiped 25% off teachers’ pay since 2010. However, this year has been particularly brutal. The Tories have capped NHS pay rises at 4% for most staff, while inflation is over 10%. The TUC noted that this means the Tories have cut £1,100 off nurses’ pay and £1,500 off paramedics’ pay. So, workers have had enough.

Workers have had enough

YouGov did polling for the TUC. It found that among public sector workers, 1.8 million (32%) said they were thinking of quitting their jobs. Of the people YouGov surveyed, it found that:

  • 45% said the Tories’ approach to pay “has made them more likely to leave their job in the next one to three years”. This rose to 50% among health and social care workers.
  • 52% who “have taken steps to leave or are considering leaving” said it was due to low pay.
  • 47% feel undervalued.
  • 33% have a “poor work-life balance”.
  • 31% said they have “excessive workloads”.

The impact of all this is already clear. The TUC noted that:

Latest data shows that NHS England is operating short of almost 130,000 staff due to unfilled vacancies. This represents a vacancy rate of 9.7 per cent. In the education sector, one in eight newly qualified teachers (NQTs) leave the profession after one year in the job, with almost one-third of NQTs (31%) leaving within their first five years.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in a press release that many public sector workers:

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are now at breaking point because of a toxic mix of low pay, unsustainable workloads and a serious lack of recognition. After years of brutal pay cuts, nurses, teachers, refuse workers and millions of other public servants have seen their living standards decimated – and now face more pay misery. It is little wonder morale is through the floor and many key workers are considering leaving their jobs for good.

Strike against the Tories

However, public sector workers aren’t taking the Tories’ pay assault lying down. As we’ve seen in recent months, strike action in the private sector has taken off. Now, in the public sector, the Royal Colleges of Nurses and Midwives, the National Education Union (NEU) and Unison have been balloting members on strike action. As O’Grady summed up:

If there is large-scale public sector strike action over the months ahead, the government only has itself to blame… [It has] chosen to hold down public servants’ pay while giving bankers unlimited bonuses. Ministers must change course. Without decent pay rises for key workers in the public sector, we face a mass exodus of staff.

However, given that the Tories have already signalled that more austerity is on the cards, they’re unlikely to put in place a fair public sector pay rise. That means workers will have to continue to strike until they force the government to change course.

Featured image via goodcatmum – Wikimedia, resized to 770×403 pixels under licence CC BY-SA 2.0 

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