Financial Reward for Government Workers and Key Workers Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Financial Reward for Government Workers and Key Workers

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly in Westminster Hall. I thank and congratulate my good and hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) on securing this important debate, which reflects her long-held commitment to working people.

The people of Newport West work hard, look out for their neighbours and, where they can, help out—they never walk by on the other side. That is why so many of them have been in touch with me in recent weeks and months, urging me to call on Tory Ministers to act quickly. “Act on what?” some might ask. They do not want Ministers just to clap or say nice words; they want real action to show those who are keeping our country going that we really care and that we recognise their contribution in the most difficult of circumstances.

Like so many in this House and across the country, I have heard from constituents who want this place to do what our public sector and key workers have done for us in recent months: to go the extra mile and show that we care. Before my election to this place, I worked in our national health service for more than 30 years. Every day, I saw people working to keep our communities safe and our people alive. The least we can do is give something back.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Gower illustrated, public sector workers have endured a decade of severe cuts in the value of their wages, with many seeing the buying power of their pay packet fall by almost a fifth between 2010 and 2020. At the same time, the private sector has far outstripped the public sector, as private sector pay grew at between 2% and 2.5% per year during the six years of the public sector pay freeze and pay cap.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) stated, the latest Office for National Statistics analysis shows that, contrary to the myths, public sector workers earned 3% less than private sector workers in comparable jobs. These statistics show the importance of standing up for and siding with public sector workers in these tough times. Like other Opposition Members, I will be doing exactly that. It is important that we do that because the Government’s latest pay policy is set to heap further damage on public sector workers, as the forecast inflation rate for 2021 suggests that all public sector staff outside the NHS will see a decline in the value of their wages, whether they receive their £250 payment or not.

While the Government’s pay policy should be opposed unconditionally—I do so with the knowledge that many of my constituents do so, too—there are still answers that Ministers must provide. The rationale for the pay policy announcement was that the pay pause would protect public sector jobs. What measures and funding will the Government put in place to ensure that jobs are not lost and how is that objective being communicated to employers in the public sector? I look forward to the Minister’s explanation in her response.

I know that time is short, but I wanted to speak in this debate to show our key workers that there are some in this place who care. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Gower and many others in pledging to do all I can to stand with them and stand up for them in the opportunities that I have.