Unions condemn 'pay hypocrisy' of MPs

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The Independent Online
SALARIES of MPs yesterday exacerbated the rail dispute as the RMT joined other public sector unions in condemning the 'hypocrisy' of members receiving a pay rise twice the rate of inflation. The increase will take MPs' salaries from pounds 31,687 to pounds 33,169 - a rise of almost pounds 1,500.

The rise, due in January, was defended by Tony Newton, Leader of the House, amid fears that it could increase pay militancy. Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, is expected to underline that next year's public sector pay will have to be financed by productivity.

Since 1992, MPs have no longer linked their salaries to the pay for civil servants in grade 6. At the same time, with the Government insisting on public-sector pay increases up to a maximum of 1.5 per cent, MPs agreed to a pay freeze while a new link was worked out.

In November last year, the Commons agreed to tie its pay to the average for civil service grades 5 to 7, paying themselves in two stages - a 2.7 per cent increase last January followed by a 2.7 rise in January next year. Since then, however, these civil service grades have been offered 2 per cent, which will give MPs a total of 4.7 per cent. Inflation is 2.3 per cent.

Jimmy Knapp, general secretary of the signal workers' union, said his members would read of the rise 'with a mixture of anger and cynicism. Ministers blocked our productivity deal because they said it broke public pay guidelines. Now they appear to be rewriting the rules to suit themselves.'

Alan Jinkinson, general sec retary of Unison, the health and local government union, said: 'This is sheer hypocrisy. It is grossly unfair that the Government should impose a three-year pay freeze on 5 million public sector workers and not set an example within MPs' awards.'

Brian Wilson, Labour's transport spokesman, said: 'There is a catching-up element in the MPs' settlement, yet that is the principle the Government has set its face against for the signalmen. You can't have a holy grail for signalmen that past productivity cannot be recognised, while there is a different standard applied to MPs.'

Mr Newton, however, defended the increase, saying: 'I don't see how this can be interpreted as breaking the Government's pay guidelines.' Over a three-year period, MPs were getting the same as the civil servants but, because of the delays, they lose pounds 2,000 by comparison, he said.

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