Large majorities think many public sector workers should be given pay rises above one per cent, and most Labour voters think their party should support strike action if pay demands are not met, according to my latest poll.
Support for higher increases in pay is greatest for nurses (86%), police officers (75%) and the Armed Forces (70%), though only just over half say they support rises above one per cent for doctors, and immigration and border staff. Only one in three would support such a rise for civil servants. Most Conservative voters support bigger rises for all the groups we asked about apart from teachers, doctors and civil servants.
Where is the money coming from?
Those who supported pay rises above one per cent were asked how they should be funded: through higher taxes, more government borrowing, or cutting spending in other areas. Just over four in ten (42%), said they favoured making savings elsewhere, though Labour voters preferred higher taxes (46%) to making savings elsewhere in the government’s budget. Overall, 39% favoured higher taxes to fund public sector pay rises.
Having been presented with this choice, nearly one in ten (9 per cent) said none of these options were acceptable and the pay cap should stay after all. Private sector workers (13 per cent) were more than twice as likely as public sector workers to think this.
To strike or not to strike?
Despite public support for pay rises, sympathy for strike action would be much more limited. Fewer than half (43%) said they would support a strike by nurses (though two thirds of Labour voters would do so), and only 36% (and 57% of Labour voters) would approve of action by teachers. Support was lower for strike action by police and prison officers, immigration staff and civil servants; large majorities of Conservatives said they would oppose action in every case.
In all cases, support for potential strike action was higher among public sector than private sector workers, but only in the case of nurses did a majority (53%) of public sector workers say they would support strike action.
What should (and would) Labour do?
Only one in three voters overall thought Labour should support any strike for higher public sector pay – but more than half (52%) thought the party would do so in practice. However, the proportion of Labour voters saying their party should support the strike was the same as that saying it would in fact do so.
Public sector workers (45%) were nearly twice as likely as private sector workers (23%) to say Labour should support such strikes – but private sector workers were nearly as likely as those in the public sector to think the party would do so if the situation arose.
Who pays better?
Finally, we asked how people thought pay in the public and private sectors compared for similar jobs. Nearly half (46%), and a majority of Labour voters, said they thought private sector pay was higher. Only one in five believed pay was higher in the public sector. Conservative voters were the most likely to say this, but still only one in three of them said they thought this was the case.
By a 46-point margin, public employees thought private sector pay was higher for similar jobs. Private sector employees were much more evenly divided, but still more likely to think public pay was lower than that it was higher.