Last month’s stories about police pay again show how journalists can’t do maths (also see this). As a union should, the Police Federation has pointed out how delaying any pay rise penalises their members, and uses a nice simple figure. One which is repeated by all the journalists, but doesn’t really make any sense. Indeed, a better understanding of the use of pay figures is needed to get any justice for all workers.
‘The pay award will be backdated only to December 1, not September 1 as expected. The delay reduces the police award to a 1.9% pay increase.’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2226870,00.html)
Of course, they are being paid 2.5% more for the work done on Dec 1st, than that done on Nov 30th. That’s a 2.5% pay rise. But by delaying the rise, the total pay for a given time period (say April ’07 – April ’08) is lower. This seems to be a common trick in the public sector. If the negotiators get 2.5% each time they ask, but the implementation ends up being every 15 months, then they don’t get a yearly pay rise of 2.5%.
In my last job I lost out by far more than the police over a back pay issue (we’d been promised a year, and got none). There was also a delay to implementation of a new pay scale, so even though it was supposed to reflect the correct pay at a certain date, when it came in inflation had already eroded it, and because the pay negotiation timetable had to be followed any subsequent annual rises were on already out-of-date figures.
I don’t know how the police negotiation works and when, but if next year’s pay rise is brought forward then they might get something like inflation when it’s all added up. If not, then they are losing out. Good luck to ’em.
P.S. Another issue related is that of the relationship between the rise in the ‘total wage bill’ and individual pay packets. The wage effect on inflation seems to be something the treasury influences through increases in the public sector wage bill, which it wants to keep at 2%. Individuals can get more, as long as the total stays at this level, perhaps by making some redundant…