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Rishi Sunak set to announce pay freeze for millions of workers

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The chancellor is preparing an announcement of squeezed public sector pay in light of the economic shock of the pandemic, according to reports.

Government sources say the announcement will be part of a mini-budget on Wednesday and will include plans to launch a Whitehall savings drive to tackle record levels of borrowing. 

It will also see the tightening of public servants’ pay – many of whom were at the forefront of the government’s pandemic response. 

Up to five million public sector workers are reportedly facing the pay freeze.

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Those set to foot the bill for the government’s spending include soldiers, police officers, teachers and civil servants.

It is understood that NHS staff, nurses and doctors are exempt from the pay cap.

Rishi Sunak is expected to argue that it is ‘not fair’ public sector workers receive pay rises while private sector employees are losing jobs and enduring pay cuts. 

In real terms, public sector pay is falling behind where it was a decade ago due to Tory austerity. 

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In July, Sunak launched a spending review where he warned that public sector pay would need to keep ‘parity’ with private-sector wages.

He wrote at the time: “In the interest of fairness we must exercise restraint in future public sector pay awards, ensuring that, across this year and the spending review period, public sector pay levels retain parity with the private sector.”

The rightwing thinktank, Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), explained that freezing the wages of 5.5million public sector employees for three years would save £23 billion on the Treasury bill. It is expected Rishi Sunak will use this report as the basis in his consideration.

Stopping wage increases would, in effect, be a pay cut as wages would not keep up with the rate of inflation which is currently 0.5%.

Number 10/Flickr

Instead, if the pay rise was capped to just 1%, analysts think this could ‘save’ up to £11.7billion. 

The CPS – set up by Margaret Thatcher and whose director was one of the leading authors of the 2019 Conservative manifesto – claims private-sector workers have ‘suffered far more than those in the public sector’.

It says in its ‘Public Sector Pay: The Case for Restraint’ report: “The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been severe, but the pain has not been shared equally.

“Some businesses are folding under the strain, public finances have been decimated, while the public sector has escaped relatively unscathed.

“Healthcare workers aside, it is difficult to justify generous pay rises in the public sector when private sector wages are actually falling.

“At the same time, there is a need to control public spending and reduce the structural deficit which the pandemic is likely to have opened up.

“The Chancellor should redress this imbalance by showing restraint when it comes to pay and pensions in the public sector.”

Number 10/Flickr

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Freezing their pay is no way to reward key workers for their service. Unions will fight for the proper pay rise they have earned. Working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said: “The government must do what’s right next week and announce the wage rise staff have more than earned. Anything less risks destroying morale when the entire country is counting on them.”

Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB trade union, said: “Billions are being wasted, flowing out of Treasury into the pockets of their chums. Some people are benefiting from the pandemic while our workers are working throughout it.

“It’s dangerous territory for the chancellor if he imposes pay restraint as a way of offsetting the cost of the pandemic. We’re not through it, we’re still in it. Does he really want to do this when people’s morale is so low?

“When people have lost loved ones and people they’ve worked with, is now the time to kick them even more? I don’t think it would go down well.”

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Boris Johnson confirms England will return to three tier system from December 2nd

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Boris Johnson addressed the Commons remotely today, to lay out his ‘Covid Winter Plan’.

The Prime Minister spoke to MPs via videolink as he is still self-isolating.

Mr Johnson confirmed that England would be returning to the regional three tier system which was in place before lockdown began.

However, he announced that the three tiers would each become stricter to try and stop the spread of the virus.

In Tier 1, people should work from home where it is possible, while in Tier 2 alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal, and in Tier 3 indoor entertainment, hotels and all hospitality will have to close – except for deliveries and takeaways.

Also in Tiers 1 and 2, the 10pm curfew for pubs and bars will end, with last orders being at 10pm and establishments closing at 11pm, allowing people to leave in a more staggered way.

The Prime Minister confirmed that gyms, hairdressers, salons and all shops could reopen at the end of lockdown, and that outdoor sports can resume.

He also announced that some fans will be allowed back into sports stadiums in Tier 1 and 2 areas.

Mr Johnson said that ‘more regions will temporarily fall into the higher levels’, but that with mass testing it should be possible for these areas to move into lower tiers.

The government is also working with the devolved administrations of the UK to come up with a plan for Christmas, according to the Prime Minister, although he added: “I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year”.

The government is also planning to ‘end automatic isolation’ for anyone who has come into contact with someone who has coronavirus, with a testing scheme replacing it, which will be piloted in Liverpool.

In the pilot, people who have come into contact with anyone who’s tested positive will be tested every day for a week – they’ll only need to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus. 

It’s expected the details of what tier the different regions and areas of England will be placed in will be announced on Thursday.

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Morrisons gives 10% Christmas discount to frontline workers in 16 jobs

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As a ‘thank you’ to thousands of frontline workers, Morrisons will be providing a 10% discount to people from now until Christmas.

Those employed in the emergency services, care workers and Armed Forces personnel who hold a Blue Light Card will qualify for the benefit at Morrisons stores.

Cardholders will be able to claim the 10% discount on their groceries by presenting their Blue Light ID Card at tills at any of Morrisons 498 stores.

Morrisons have launched the discount to show appreciation to the key workers who have gone above and beyond their usual roles throughout the pandemic this year.

People in these roles qualify:

  • Ambulance Service
  • Border Force
  • British Army
  • Fire Service
  • HM Coastguard
  • Prison Service
  • Police
  • Red Cross
  • Reserve Armed Force
  • Royal Air Force
  • Royal Marines
  • Royal Navy
  • Social care workers
  • HM Armed Forces Veterans
  • Community First Responders
  • Second Line Responders

David Potts, Morrisons’ chief executive said: “Our emergency services, social care sector and armed forces have worked tirelessly this year to provide support to the many people who need it across the UK, often in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Blue Light Card Holders also have the opportunity to take advantage of the dedicated shopping hour for NHS staff and school Staff that occurs between 6 and 7am every day except Sunday.

Tom Dalby, chief executive of Blue Light Card, added: “Offering a Blue Light Card discount will make a huge difference to our members.

“I hope that this partnership will make the Christmas food shop that little bit easier for those who go the furthest for us.”

Find your nearest Morrisons.

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Matt Hancock says life could return to normal ‘after Easter’

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Speaking on the latest vaccine news, Matt Hancock said things should return to some sense of normality after Easter.

He told BBC Breakfast that the majority of people will be vaccinated in spring, meaning things should return to normal after Easter.

It comes after the Oxford vaccine candidate has been demonstrated to be 90% effective, with health secretary Matt Hancock stressing that the majority of the population would need to be immunised before restrictions can be significantly eased.

The government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine which is reportedly cheaper and easier to store than the Pfizer and Moderna alternative.

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The Oxford vaccine has proved to be between 70 and 90% effective based on a trial of 20,000 people.

Hancock explained that the ‘bulk’ of the vaccines will be given in the new year with some getting the vaccine before Christmas.

He said: “It is subject to that regulatory approval and I really stress that because the medicines regulator, it’s called the MHRA, is independent, they’re rigorous, they’re one of the best regulators in the world.

“They will be very, very careful to ensure that they look at all the data to make sure that this is safe. Subject to that approval, we hope to be able to start vaccinating next month.

“The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March, and we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.”

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The news comes following the expected announcement later today with the government’s plans for winter.

It is expected a tiered system, stricter than the previous one will be put in place post-Lockdown 2.0 to allow families to celebrate Christmas.

Mr Hancock said: “The number of cases is now clearly starting to fall across the whole of the UK.

“In England, we come to the end of the lockdown as you know on December 2nd, and so we do think that we can replace the lockdown with a tiered system. But the tiered system, whilst lighter than lockdown, will have to be stronger than the previous tiers that were in place.”

When asked if there will be a fourth tier, Mr Hancock said: “No, three tiers, but the top tier, tier 3, will have to be stronger than the previous tier 3.”

The new local tiered rules are expected to be accompanied by more mass testing programmes similar to that in Liverpool.

Mr Hancock said cases in Liverpool – the worst affected city in the UK – have been brought down ‘really quite remarkably’ following the rollout.

He said: “In Liverpool, cases are down by more than two-thirds in the last few weeks.

“And this is a combination, of course, of those restrictions that have been in place, but also in Liverpool we put in mass testing.

“They’ve tested over 200,000 people of the just over half a million who live in Liverpool. And they’ve found a load more people who were asymptomatic, didn’t know that they had a problem, didn’t know they have the virus.

“And the combination of the mass testing, and the measures in Liverpool, have brought the cases down really quite remarkably, much faster than I would have thought was possible.”

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