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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
At-a-glance: Public sector pay flashpoints
Gordon Brown is facing calls for co-ordinated strikes over public sector pay. Several unions are thought likely to raise the issue with the prime minister at next month's Trades Union Congress. But the prime minister says staging pay awards is an essential part of controlling inflation. Here is a look at some key areas.

NHS

NHS staff in England are considering industrial action over this year's pay award. The Royal College of Nursing and Unison are among unions unhappy with the decision not to implement in one go the recommended 2.5% offer. They say awarding it in two stages makes it worth 1.9%. Colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have got the pay rise in one go.

A new offer has been made. Unison has said this is the best offer likely to be achieved and is balloting members. The RCN is currently consulting members about whether to accept it, or hold a ballot on industrial action.

Peter Finch, of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "Our members have been very angry in England, that our members in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have received the full 2.5% which was recommended by the review body, but in England we have not been able to reach an agreement."

There has also been a more general concern about cuts in jobs and services, private sector involvement and the drive to create more of a market in healthcare, as well as anger at the - eventually abandoned - online application system for junior doctors.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has sought to soothe anger over those issues by promising an NHS review. Gordon Brown will want to head off attempts by David Cameron to make the NHS a vote-winner for the Conservatives.

PRISON OFFICERS

Thousands of prison officers in England and Wales walked out in a surprise strike over this year's staged pay award. The Prison Officers' Association says its members have received below-inflation pay rises for two years, while having to deal with prison overcrowding and facing assaults at work. It says it has been trying to talk to the government about its grievances since the 2.5% award was announced in April.

Mr Brown has said staged pay awards are an essential part of a stable economy and has warned unions he will not put that at risk. The POA is due to meet the government for talks on Friday.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said it was essential Mr Brown responded quickly to the strike to send a signal to people across the public sector - any sign of weakness on the pay dispute would mean more industrial relations trouble further down the line, he said.

SCHOOLS

Teachers' pay is set by statute, and had already been agreed at 2.5% for 2006-2007, with the proviso that, should inflation rise above 3.25%, there should be an option to review it.

However the government ruled this out in June - and was accused by the National Union of Teachers of a "breach of honour". As schools have not yet returned from the summer break, the NUT does not yet know if there will be an appetite for industrial action on the issue.

There is also a general concern about what critics call the "privatisation" of state education - particularly the government's flagship academies programme - in which secondary schools are privately sponsored and independently managed.

It is not yet certain that Mr Brown will continue with some of the more controversial of Tony Blair's reforms. He has announced an expansion of the academies programme, but said they would have to follow the national curriculum on core subjects and consult with local education authorities.

POLICE

The police have been offered a 2.3% pay award in stages, but they want 3.9%.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, says the pay offer amounts to "pay cuts in real terms" - and it is being referred to the independent Police Arbitration Panel.

Alan Gordon, vice chairman of the Police Federation, said police officers were "very angry, very frustrated and they are fed up with being treated with contempt by this government".

Police officers are banned from going on strike over the issue, but the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents 30,000 London-based officers, said they may be forced to demand the right to strike.

CIVIL SERVANTS AND COUNCIL STAFF

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents 270,000 people, has already staged two national strikes over pay and job cuts - of which more than 100,000 were outlined by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown, in 2004.

PCS spokesman Geoff Lewtas told the BBC more strikes over pay were a "real possibility" and said: "Frankly, it's a case of enough is enough".

Unison is currently considering a revised pay offer for local government workers, which would see the lowest-paid staff get a 3.4% rise, and 2.475% rise for remaining staff. A strike appears unlikely for now.

A lengthy dispute over changes to the civil service pension scheme appears to have been resolved. The two biggest unions - Prospect and the PCS - have now recommended to members that they back the changes under which new recruits would retire at 65, not 60.

FIRE BRIGADE

The dispute over pay which saw a national firefighters' strike in 2003 has been resolved and this year's 2.4% pay rise has been accepted.

There are some local disputes over the downgrading of fire stations and cuts to services - particularly in Cornwall, Devon and Warwickshire - and generally some concerns over a shortage of personnel, equipment and training. But industrial action on a national basis appears unlikely.




SEE ALSO
Brown's prisons pay deal warning
30 Aug 07 |  UK Politics
Prisons dispute threat to Brown
30 Aug 07 |  UK Politics



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