A proposed pay rise of 1% for nurses and other health workers who have been on the coronavirus frontline has triggered an angry backlash.
Having been clapped by the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, critics have branded as “contemptuous” the increase for NHS staff in England, with unions raising the prospect of industrial action.
Health minister Nadine Dorries has said in “an ideal world” everyone would love to see nurses paid more, but the government cannot afford it in the face of record borrowing and costs due to the coronavirus crisis.
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What are the state of the nation’s finances?
Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans in his budget this week to repair the Britain’s battered coffers, which will see UK households and businesses shoulder the biggest tax burden since the 1960s.
Mr Sunak said borrowing this year was £355bn, 17% of national income – the highest level since the Second World War.
It has pushed debt to an all-time record topping £2.1trn – around the same size as the entire UK economy.
Is the Government’s pay offer to nurses is above inflation?
Yes and no. It depends which measure people use.
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) indicator currently stands 0.7%, according to latest official data.
However, the Bank of England predicts this will rise sharply towards 2% later this year, with people expected to go on a spending spree as lockdown is eased.
Meanwhile, the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure, which is widely used across the economy is 1.4%, which based on this means the increase for nurses is below inflation.
Are other public sector workers in line for an increase?
The chancellor announced in last year’s spending review that there would be pay rises for more than a million nurses, doctors and others working in the NHS but wage increases would be “paused” for the rest of the public sector.
However, the 2.1 million public sector workers earning less than £24,000 would receive a rise of at least £250, which means the majority of public employees will see their pay increase in 2021.
Have nurses’ jobs and pay been more secure than other occupations?
According to latest update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), nurses along with teachers fall into the “low vulnerability group” in terms of facing reduced hours or pay during the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, more than eight million employees in the UK (32.4%) are classed as being in the high vulnerability group, meaning they may have been more likely to see a cut in working hours or wages.
This includes occupations such as construction workers, security guards or cleaners, and skilled trades such as electricians.
More than half of employees who were furloughed during the first wave of the coronavirus worked in high vulnerability jobs.
Separate Treasury figures show the number of people on company payrolls fell by 882,000 between February and
By the end of last year, the unemployment rate had risen to 5.1%.
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Do private sector workers earn more than staff in the public services?
Average weekly earnings in the public sector stood at £570 at the end of last year, up by 4.2% in the three months to December, compared to the previous year, ONS data shows.
In contrast, for the private sector, average weekly earnings were £525 that month, up by 4% over the same period.
But haven’t businesses benefitted from job support schemes?
More than £100bn has been spent on supporting jobs through the pandemic, such as the furlough initiative, where the government covers most of workers’ wages.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected more than 11 million employees since it was set up.
The chancellor confirmed in his budget that furlough would be extended until the end of September, although employers will be expected to make a contribution from July.
Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
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