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Low-paid women will bear the brunt of the public sector pay freeze

LOW-PAID female workers will bear the brunt of the public-sector pay freeze Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce on Wednesday, union Unite has warned.

Mr Sunak is expected to announce a three-year freeze on public-sector wages, which would cost public-sector workers an estimated £15 billion, according to financial analysts.

He hinted yesterday that he could impose the freeze by arguing that it would be “entirely reasonable” to consider pay policy in an economy hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The freeze will not be applied to NHS front-line staff but will affect other key workers including firefighters, hospital porters and teaching assistants.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “It is clear that any public-sector pay freeze will bear down hardest on female employees, who make up the majority of the public-sector workforce, such as nurses, teaching assistants and those who care for our most vulnerable.

“Already women have been badly affected by the pandemic as they juggle childcare responsibilities, their work commitments and worries about elderly relatives, and now the Chancellor Rishi Sunak appears to be going to make their financial situation a lot worse, which is shameful.”

General union GMB said a wage freeze to pay for the government’s botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic could cost the Tories 43 of the 54 seats they took from Labour in 2019.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “GMB will not rest in campaigning for pay justice for all public service workers and if Conservative MPs insist on pushing this cruel and counter-productive measure through then it will not be forgotten at the next election.

“A new pay freeze would be an outrageous attack on some of the workers who sacrificed the most during the Covid pandemic.

“Public-sector workers’ wages have never recovered from a decade of pay austerity, which forced thousands of key workers to depend on debt and foodbanks.”

Local Government Association chairman James Jamieson said: “The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the exceptional commitment of council staff and care workers who, alongside NHS health workers, have been on the front line in the battle against Covid-19 and are true heroes of this pandemic.”

He called for more government funding for local councils “to support their employees as much as possible and recruit and retain the staff needed to provide the local services that are delivered every day by our hard-working staff, alongside care workers and NHS colleagues.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds will say in a speech today that taxpayers “shouldn’t have to pay the price for a government that doesn’t know the value of public money, splurging it on outsourced contracts to Tory-linked firms that don’t deliver.”

And Communist Party of Britain (CPB) northern district secretary Martin Levy said that Tory incompetence and corruption over the handling of the pandemic meant that “many thousands more people have lost their lives, jobs are being destroyed and small businesses are going to the wall.”

He said at an online meeting of the CPB executive at the weekend: “Faced with the prospect of mass unemployment, our economy urgently needs a boost in demand and production, not a public-sector pay freeze.”

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