Regional Pay – Gazette Column, March 2012

Carwyn Jones AM on regional pay
Carwyn Jones AM on regional pay

Should workers in Wales and the North of England be paid less than those in the south of England?

For me, the answer to that is straightforward-absolutely not! In the Chancellor’s statement last month the UK government took a different line though. They announced that they want to move ahead to a system where instead of people being paid on a similar scale throughout England and Wales, people in Bridgend would be paid less than those in Bristol, or indeed people in Maesteg could be paid less than those of Bridgend!

Their logic is that where wage rates in the private sector such as factories are lower than the UK average then wage rates for those working in the health service, education and social services should also be lower than he UK average. In other words, doctors, teachers, nurses, police officers and care workers should be paid less for doing the same job because they live in Pencoed not Brighton through having a cut in their wages and salaries.

This strikes me as completely wrong. For a start, if there is a gap between earnings in the private sector and public sector then surely the answer is to help to increase earnings in the private sector?

They also argue that there are loads of jobs in the private sector in Wales, but people won’t take them because there are better paid jobs in the public sector. I’ll bet there are few businesses in Bridgend who believe that. The reality is that those private sector jobs are not there in sufficient numbers at the moment.

One possible way of preventing this move might be to for the Welsh Government to set earnings scales in Wales, but you could bet that the Treasury would not return enough money to Wales to cover the wage bill. Such an arrangement wouldn’t cover those who work for the DWP or DVLA or the police, who are the responsibility of UK government who would still be left at their mercy.

So we face a very serious threat in Wales; one that affects everybody wherever they work. The threat is quite simply that the UK government believes that workers in Wales (and the north of England)should be paid less than those in the south of England for doing exactly the same job.

I cannot believe there are many in Wales who would agree.