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.’

For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior Accountant x2

Islington London Borough Council
£39,462 - £45,594 per annum
There are two roles currently being advertised, one working with our Resources finance team, and one with our Housing and Public Health finance team. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Programme Director – Fisheries

Falkland Islands Government
£50,771 up to £56,292
The Programme Director – Fisheries will support the Director of Natural Resources Falkland Islands (FK)
Recuriter: Falkland Islands Government

Principal Engineer/Team Leader Street Works

Bath & North East Somerset Council
£39,880 - £42,821 pa
The Council’s Street Works Team is responsible for managing all aspects of road works and events that take place on our highway network. Keynsham, Bristol
Recuriter: Bath & North East Somerset Council

Social Worker / Advanced Practitioner – Children & Families Service

North Yorkshire County Council
£30,451 - £39,880 per annum pro rata + relocation support
North Yorkshire County Council have a national reputation for excellence. Skipton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Senior Technician - Asset Management - Highways & Flood Risk

West Berkshire Council
£23,541 to £29,577 per annum (Grade G)
We are currently looking to recruit to two exciting opportunities who will join us and play a role in improving West Berkshire’s highways. Newbury, Berkshire
Recuriter: West Berkshire Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue