William Eichler 24 July 2017

Public sector workers work £11bn of unpaid overtime a year, union says

Public sector workers work £11bn of unpaid overtime a year, union says image

Nearly two million public sector workers regularly work unpaid overtime, union says in response to chancellor’s suggestion public sector workers are ‘overpaid’.

Research by GMB, the union for public sector staff, has revealed 1.8 million public sector workers regularly work unpaid overtime worth £11bn a year.

The study, which is based on the latest official statistics, found almost a quarter of public sector staff work an average of eight unpaid hours a week.

If public sector workers were paid for these hours, GMB says, they would be owed an extra £6,000 on average - equivalent to a 24% pay rise.

GMB’s research comes amid a row over the public sector pay cut and controversial comments from the chancellor.

The Government’s policy is for public sector pay scales to be capped at 1% each year up to and including 2019–20. However, the chancellor has been under pressure to remove this cap.

Philip Hammond cautioned against lifting the cap and reportedly told cabinet colleagues that public-sector staff were ‘overpaid’. He argued they were better paid than their private sector counterparts because they received better pensions.

GMB argues public sector workers are almost twice as likely to work unpaid overtime than their private sector counterparts.

The union said many were working ‘dangerous’ levels of extra hours. More than three hundred thousand public sector workers – or one in twenty – told the union they usually worked 15 or more unpaid hours a week.

Midwives and social workers were two of the hardest hit public sector occupations, with almost four in 10 typically putting in unpaid hours.

A quarter of people in school support staff roles, such as teaching assistants and school secretaries, also regularly worked unpaid.

According to the union’s findings, 412,000 public sector jobs have been cut since 2010 which has raised workloads while demand has risen.

‘Philip Hammond says that public sector workers are ‘overpaid’ but these shocking new figures show just how out of touch he is,’ said Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services.

‘Public sector workers are the backbone of our society – working above and beyond their contracted hours because they are committed to jobs they love.’

‘Unpaid hours mean that thousands are effectively earning below the minimum wage, especially in the care sector,’ Ms Azam continued.

‘The reality is that public services are held together by the devotion of overworked and under-appreciated employees, who are effectively handing the Government £11bn worth of their labour for free.

‘It’s frankly patronising and ill-informed to dismiss calls for wages increases when millions of salaries would rise by a quarter if payslips genuinely reflected all hours worked.’

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