Barometer

So are public-sector workers really underpaid?

No. Plus: What government departments fine one another, and the biggest sporting crowds

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

Public benefit

Public sector unions held a strike over pay. How well are public-sector workers paid compared with their counterparts in the private sector?
— Comparing jobs like for like, public sector workers earn between 2.2% and 3.1% more than private sector workers in April last year.
— In the lowest-earning 5% of workers, public sector workers earned 13% more than private sector workers.
— In the highest-earning 5%, public-sector workers earned 6% less than private sector ones.
Source: ONS

Fine, fine, fine

Network Rail was fined £53 million for running late trains. We are used to public authorities fining us, but how much do they fine each other?
£2.5m: Fine imposed upon York hospital by government for missing A&E targets.
£185,000: Amount that the Department of Justice Northern Ireland was fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office for selling a filing cabinet full of papers relating to victims of terrorism.
£20,000: Fine imposed by the HSE on Renfrewshire Council after an elderly tenant fell through the floor in her block of flats.

Reporting abuse


The government announced an inquiry into child sex abuse. Are recorded offences more prevalent than a decade ago?

2004/05
Rape of female under 16 3,010
Rape of male under 16 322
Sexual assault on female under 13 4,490
Sexual assault on male under 13 1,230
2012/13
Rape of female under 16 2,800
Rape of male under 16 352
Sexual assault on female under 13 4,170
Sexual assault on male under 13 1,270

Source: Home Office

Great sports

Six million spectators are estimated to have watched the Tour de France during the three stages held in England. Which sports pull the biggest crowds?
538,000 attended Phoenix Open golf championship over four days in 2008.
394,000 watched the Calcutta Test match between England and India in 1982.
257,000 was the estimated crowd for Indianapolis 500 motor race in 2004.
199,900 watched Brazil play Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup.
190,000 attended a pro-wrestling event in May Day Stadium, Korea, in 1995.

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  • tjamesjones

    sorry wrong page, I came here to read about unsafe airport security. bye.

    • Kitty MLB

      Hello and Bye.. very polite of you to explain.

  • ugly_fish

    Do public sector workers pay tax? Or is it just an elaborate fiction? Discuss.

  • Seldom Seen

    A senior civil servant of my acquaintance has not had a pay rise since 2009. In the meantime his income tax bill has risen steadily as have his NI and pension contributions (the latter, hugely). Those who pour scorn on the work of civil servants (readers of this magazine, for instance) will doubtless be pleased at this turn of events. After all, surely he is nothing more or less than a leech on the poor old British taxpayer? Or, perhaps, he’s just like you and me: trying to get by and provide for his family as best he can.

    • ian channing

      My heart bleeds. I haven’t *ever* had a pay rise, because I am self-employed and cannot risk upping my prices even as the cost living goes up–I know from having tried it that I lose customers. I suspect it is the same for many self-employed in various fields. As for striking, or withholding labour in any way, forget it.
      Leeches, no. Cushioned and spoilt, yes.

      • GraveDave

        Well, you makes your choice. So ‘up your prices’ . You might even be pleasantly surprised.

        • rob232

          He’s just told you that he can’t.

    • GraveDave

      Actually I think the right , as ‘right’ goes, has come pretty unstuck with all this.
      According to what I read on the various blogs anyway.

    • HJ777

      How has his Income Tax bill risen?

      Income tax rates (except the top rate which was 40% in 2009 and is 45% now – and is only payable on earnings above £150k ) have not risen, and personal Income Tax allowances have been raised substantially.

      The costs of pensions is rising for everyone (or they simply take less pension).

      I’m self-employed and haven’t been able to raise my rates since 2007 (and in some cases I have had to cut them).

  • Fraziel

    Yes they are, I am in my 8th year of pay restraint shamefully started under labour during an economic boom before we had any hint of a crash. I have lost approx £3500 in wages during that period and for someone on a lowish wage that is disatrous. I appreciate we all have to contribute and i think some public sector workers have done ok but most civil servants have not. We work hard and the government seems to think we are no better than benefot cheats. I will never vote tory until that changes. They are talking about extending the freeze for another 4 years. Another 4 years of cuts for some of the poorest workers in the country. Its shameful.

    • Gwangi

      Private sector workers are in the same boat but don’t have the massive pensions and job security you enjoy. The self-employed have no paid holidays or sick pay either usually.
      But I agree – let’s cut the salaries of those at the top to ensure those at the bottom get fair pay. But really, the ‘living wage’ in Wales or northern England is a massive salary. Not in London and the south-east though where houses cost 3 times more (thanks to mass immigration).

  • rtj1211

    They don’t get paid very much, but nor do private sector workers either.

    Ultimately, the discussion should be about who gets paid very, very high wages and what is so special about what they do to deserve it?? Some will, some won’t……..

    • Gwangi

      But they DO get paid a lot if you get outside London and the south-east. A council manager’s salary is MASSIVE in places such as Wales – way more than senior people in the private sector. Ditto for academics and GPs/consultants.
      Time for regional pay?
      Plus you do not include benefits – big pensions, maternity pay, other perks. Add them and you can add a third to any public sector salary.

    • Gwangi

      But they DO get paid a lot if you get outside London and the south-east. A council manager’s salary is MASSIVE in places such as Wales – way more than senior people in the private sector. Ditto for academics and GPs/consultants.
      Time for regional pay?
      Plus you do not include benefits – big pensions, maternity pay, other perks. Add them and you can add a third to any public sector salary.

  • Amir

    Read this article about Labour’s reaction to strikes:

    http://www.casualpolitics.co.uk/2014/07/which-party-is-most-worried-about-strikes/

  • Gwangi

    Number 25,758 in my collection of ‘great questions to which the answer is NO’:

    “Are public-sector workers really underpaid?”
    If you go to Wales, the West Country, the north of England etc then it is state sector workers who are the highest earners of all (academics, council managers/bureaucrats, health service professionals). Houses in Wales cost a third of those in south-east England. Yet state-funded workers in Wales and Kent earn the same. WHY?
    It is private sector workers in the provinces and regions who are discriminated against – and the self-employed who have no pensions, no sick pay or holiday pay, and zero job security.
    These strikers are spoilt, selfish and greedy. End of. I have no sympathy with these whingers and despise the attempted blackmail of the unions. Public sector workers (two thirds are women who hate risk and so like middling jobs with security in councils etc) have had it far too easy in the past and want the good times to continue endlessly. Well, they ALREADY have good times – an 18 year old girl who becomes a nurse earns a great salary when compared to other jobs in the private sector in places like Wales and the north.

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