Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 16:27 UK

Anger over pay freeze 'politics'

GP and patient (generic)
GPs have clashed with the government over policies in recent years

Public sector workers have criticised plans to freeze their pay - announced by both the government and the Tories - to try to address the public deficit.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has said he would freeze the pay of senior staff, including GPs and judges.

Tory counterpart George Osborne said he would freeze public pay for 12 months - but not for workers on less than £18,000 and troops in Afghanistan.

The PCS union said both parties were "playing politics with people's lives".

Public and Commercial Services union leader Mark Serwotka said there was a "very strong likelihood of industrial action" if a pay freeze was brought in.

'Lacked guts'

Mr Darling was first to announce his plans on Monday evening, breaking the convention that the government avoids big policy statements during rival party conferences.

A spokesman for the prime minister said there was "no plan" for the announcement to be made during the Tory conference, adding: "Sometimes things get out."

George Osborne: ''We are all this together''

But during his speech in Manchester on Tuesday, Mr Osborne criticised the move, saying Mr Darling "didn't have the guts" to announce the freeze to his own party's conference last week.

The chancellor has written to salary review bodies calling on them to freeze the pay of 40,000 senior public servants in 2010/11.

He also recommended that about 700,000 middle-ranking public servants, including doctors, dentists and prison officers, get a rise of between 0 and 1%.

If fully implemented, the pay freeze would be the toughest public sector pay deal in 30 years.

'Very disappointing'

It does not affect teachers, nurses and police officers, who are still subject to three-year pay deals which come to an end next year, or members of the armed forces.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne defended the freeze, saying: "Britain's public services are invaluable, but if we are to halve the deficit over four years and protect frontline services we have to make tough, but realistic decisions on pay.

"That means leadership from senior groups and realistic increases for other workforces."

Meanwhile Mr Osborne said an incoming Conservative government would impose a 12-month pay freeze on public servants earning more than £18,000 a year - although it would not include servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan.

He said this pay freeze was the equivalent of saving 100,000 frontline public sector jobs and in a message to public sector workers said: "It is the best way to protect your job during this difficult time."

We weren't expecting particularly large rises, but I don't think it's very helpful for the government to announce freezes like this in what looks to be part of a political game
Jonathan Baume
First Division Association

He also said a Tory government would cut ministers' pay by 5% next year and freeze it for the rest of the Parliament.

Mr Serwotka told the BBC: "If they intend to freeze the pay of hard-pressed public sector workers, many of whom are on low wages, I think there's a very strong likelihood of industrial action."

He added: "Over 24 hours we have seen Alistair Darling and George Osborne playing politics with people's lives, asking low paid public workers to pay for a crisis they did not create."

He said the first step should be addressing issues like tax avoidance by the wealthy and uncollected council taxes and business rates: "The rich people who caused the crisis are avoiding paying their way."

'Not helpful'

The British Medical Association (BMA) said Mr Darling's move was "very disappointing news" and insisted it was "not the time to demoralise doctors".

Spokesman Dr Lawrence Buckman said: "He won't get rid of management consultants who drain a large amount of money to American management companies. He won't stop spending money on computer systems where he's chucked billions of pounds into things that don't work.

"Yet we have to freeze our pay, which I can understand, but in freezing our pay, he also freezes our staff's pay, and that seems to me to be a monumental unfairness."

Jonathan Baume, from the First Division Association, which represents senior public servants, said they were "extremely disappointed".

"We weren't expecting particularly large rises, but I don't think it's very helpful for the government to announce freezes like this in what looks to be part of a political game, vying with the Conservatives to see who can be toughest at the moment."

But David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the pay freeze. He said it was "long overdue" and should be combined with a freeze on public sector recruitment.

A Treasury source told the BBC the government's proposed pay freeze would cancel a rise due next summer as part of a current three-year pay deal.

The move would apply to health workers in England and Wales, but not those in Scotland.

But senior civil servants working in national organisations in Scotland, such as HM Revenue and Customs, would be affected.

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