Financial Reward for Government Workers and Key Workers Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: HM Treasury

Financial Reward for Government Workers and Key Workers

Rachael Maskell Excerpts
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to be called in this debate. I thank the Petitions Committee for prioritising such an important issue. I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

We know that the petitioners have worked night and day to keep us safe over the past nine months. Although they have had plenty of claps and slaps on the back, the Chancellor’s statement came as a slap in the face, when so many looked at their pay statements at the end of the month and once again realised that they still could not make the bills pay and the balances match.

As a result, it is right that we debate public sector pay in this place, because Britain does deserve a pay rise. Although I welcome the pay rise for our NHS workers, we still do not have the remit, we do not know how that process will work, we do not know whether it will be capped by the Government and if so, to what extent, and we do not know whether the Government will fully fund it, or expect our cash-strapped NHS trust to dig deeper into the money it does not have.

One thing is for sure: we need to ensure that level of pay across the board. It is not only about our NHS workers. Our care workers, our local government workers, the people who have worked through the night trying to get people on to benefits as fast as possible, our teachers, our firefighters and our police all need that recognition. There are so many more I could mention. Curtailing their pay comes on the back of a decade of injustice in the pay system.

So many of those staff have been subject to reorganisation that has resulted in downbanding and loss of wages. We have also seen significant cuts to pensions and deferred wages for many of these workers. In the Chancellor’s statement we see history repeating itself. For a decade, the Government have not addressed the real economic crisis in our country; they have created another one, shifting the burden on to the lowest paid.

To give the lowest-paid in our country an increase of just 10p an hour is an insult after they have cared for people in their time of need over the last few months—not least those workers in care homes who have put their own lives at risk in order to support our communities. Those workers, who are mainly women and mainly black and ethnic minority, and disabled workers, are the people who are worst hit in our economy, so this is a real pay injustice, discriminating against people who are working.

The Government are always proud to talk about their national living wage, which is only £8.72 an hour. In 2015, the then Chancellor announced that by 2020 we would be on at least £9 an hour. We have not even reached that point. Of course, Labour made it very clear at the last election that we believe that we should start at £10 an hour, recognising that people have to live, survive and pay their bills, as opposed to having such pay restraint.

An increase would not be at huge cost to the Government; they could borrow and invest, which is what will make the difference to our economy. The TUC calculates that just a 2% increase would boost GDP by £1.1 billion to £2.1 billion—money that the Government could really do with at this time—and tax take would increase by up to £7 million. It is therefore not a zero-sum game: not just workers, but the Government gain.

Finally, because time is limited, we need to look again at how pay is arranged in our country. So many workers are not covered by any collective bargaining processes, and are, as a result, at the behest of their employers having additional money at the end of the year to pay them. It is completely unsatisfactory, and it is particularly the low-paid who are not part of collective bargaining arrangements.

I therefore call on the Minister to review what is happening across our pay system, and how it discriminates, to ensure that low-paid workers are not left out of pay deals. That is vital, as they are the people most in need. At a time when our economy needs such investment and our workers need to be acknowledged for all that they have done, I say to the Minister that it is time that British workers had a proper pay rise.