The problem is, Owen, that you’re blowing smoke here

They’re caught in a trap, as one renowned American singer might have put it. It is this central dilemma that explains the Tories’ agonising over the public sector pay cap. This freeze is in effect a pay cut when inflation is taken into account, suppressing the living standards of nurses, firefighters, teachers, police officers and other crucial public servants. This is an unavoidable sacrifice in the name of fiscal discipline, the Tories have long cried, even as the wealth of the top 1,000 Britons doubled during an epic economic crisis. It illustrated the profound injustice of our time: of the Tories’ clients in the financial sector plunging Britain into crisis, and then working people being forced to pay for it.

The point being, as I’ve explained elsewhere, that public sector pay should be frozen.

Facts are terribly inconvenient: as those screaming about lifting the public sector pay cap are about to find out. The basic complaint is that pay for all those dedicated servants has fallen in recent years and it should be rising. In real terms it’s entirely true that their pay has fallen as inflation has been higher than nominal rises.

But then that’s true for all of us. We’ve just had a massive recession and thus we are indeed worse off. That’s what a recession is all about. So the question should be: are we all sharing that pain? We are not. Public sector pay has fallen by less than private. The people paying the tax have suffered more than those who eat the tax – hardly a good argument in favour of tax-eater pay rises.

I’ve even got the government’s own figures:

Averaging across all 353 occupations in the UK’s Standard Occupational Classification, there was a decline of 5.8 per cent in median real gross hourly occupational earnings between 2005 and 2015. The decline was steeper among non-PRB occupations than PRB occupations (6.1 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent).

Relative to their nearest non-PRB comparators, earnings growth was higher for the PRB group in five cases and lower in five cases. However, differences were only statistically significant in three instances, with PRB Nurses and PRB Nursing Auxiliaries experiencing higher earnings growth than their non-PRB comparators, while PRB Radiographers experienced significantly lower growth than their non PRB comparator occupation.

PRB being pay review board or summat, meaning public sector.

And that’s before we get to the rises under G Brown, when the public sector was showered with our money…..

Frankly, they’re lying here.

13 thoughts on “The problem is, Owen, that you’re blowing smoke here”

  1. We need a common standard for this “top 1000”, “the 0.1%” and so on, who always seem to do so well during downturn of choice. Is it the same people at the beginning and end of the baseline-endpoint comparison? Or does the later group contain more expat Saudi playboys?

    Is there a cut-off we use for all comparisons, rather than cherry pick the precise size of a “top X” that did better than average? Can we also talk about the mirror image group and see if they are better off or not?

  2. I’m certainly on less money now in absolute terms now working in th eprivate sector than I was in the public sector ten years ago. So much so that I paid income tax back then, I don’t now.

    (yeah, tax rates have changed. Googles… Bloody ‘ell, five grand starting rate, no wonder I was paying tax back than)

  3. Anyone who bothers to look at any of the TOP whatever percent metrics knows that the people there now are not the ones who were there X years ago.

    Same at the bottom. The poorest/most disadvantaged etc etc today are not formed from the same people X years ago. The fluidity is amazing and so radically different from what the leftie spectrum (including M. Picketty) would have you believe.

    Same is true of the middle classes.

    Current richest in the world:
    Billy the computer boy
    Our Amancio Ortega (Inditex; Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear, etc)
    Jeff Bezos, the would-be grocer
    Warren the wizard
    Vladimir (apparently)….

    All first generation at top riches.

    Not sure about Carlos the Mexican.

    The Walton Family, Kamprad (Ikea) seem to be holding it together for more than a generation but the vast majority are first generation.

    We have a new type of rich created by global opportunities.

  4. Someone on the Guardian comment accused Owen Jones of being a spin doctor for Labour.

    Whereon some wag added “more like a spin nurse”

  5. As a result of earwigging on some blathering teachers/nurses a couple of days ago it seems (or at least they believe it) that there are thousands of such public sector vacancies–but nobody wants the jobs. Indeed a commenter on here said the same thing on one of yesterday’s threads–to the effect that no one wants to work in a crappy London comp for £28 grand. Or get threatened in an A& E Saturday nights for the money on offer.

  6. @Mr Ecks

    As fine an argument for abolishing national pay rates, collective bargaining and unions in general as I have heard.

    I don’t suppose that occurred to any of them?

  7. The teacher shortage is in part caused by restricting supply. I know of one lefty, with a DPhil, who was refused entry to teacher training as he was over-qualified. He subsequently went into the private sector and is now head of department.

    My ols school had a splattering of ex-services, none of whom were “qualified”, but for whose teaching parents were willing to pay.

  8. Three years in a row, in response to targetted emails saying “we need engineers like youuuuuu to enter teaching”, I applied for teacher training, and three years in a row was turned down.

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