Cumbria Crack

Cumbrian employers impose pay freeze

Rob Johnston

[F]our in 10 Cumbrian businesses have not increased staff pay in the last year, a new survey reveals.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce sent an online questionnaire to businesses in response to the growing clamour for the Government to drop the one per cent cap on pay increases for public sector workers, which has applied since 2012.

Of the 229 businesses that responded, 38 per cent had not increased pay in the last year while 12 per cent awarded an increase of one per cent or less.

On the other hand, 29 per cent had given their staff pay rises of two per cent or more.

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “This survey exposes the fallacy that private sector wage rises are outstripping public sector pay.

“Half the employers responding to our survey either paid no increase or less than one per cent.”

Despite that, the survey revealed widespread sympathy among business owners for the plight of public sector workers.

Nearly two thirds agreed that the one per cent cap on public sector pay increases should end.

Rob added: “The Government has a delicate balancing act to achieve. When we talk about public sector pay, people think of nurses, firefighters, police officers on the beat.

“But there are some highly paid jobs in the public sector. Between them, Cumbria’s local authorities have 400 employees who earned in excess of £50,000 last year.

“And there are well-paid public sector jobs in nuclear. That’s why average pay in Copeland is higher than the national average and £80 a week higher than in Cumbria as a whole.

“It would be folly to allow public sector pay to rise across the board. The Government should accept the recommendations of independent pay review bodies and target increases where there are recruitment problems, in nursing for example.

“If public sector pay rises too fast, businesses will come under pressure to increase the pay of their staff too. And if increases in public sector pay are funded by corporate tax increases, businesses will be caught between a rock and a hard place.

“They already face higher raw materials’ prices caused by the weak pound, Brexit uncertainty, weakening consumer demand, and higher costs from increases in the National Minimum Wage and pensions auto enrolment.

“The last thing businesses need is for government to fuel inflation by allowing public sector pay to escalate.”

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