Letter: Honest debate about pay needed

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The Independent Online
Honest debate

about pay needed

Sir: Last week Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, rejected an incomes policy out of hand (report, 22 May). This will not curtail debate on pay - "fat cat" scandals and speculation about a minimum wage will see to that.

But there is an urgent need for a full discussion of the challenges raised by pay issues. The implications of a minimum wage for differentials, the reaction in the public sector after years of restraint, and the breaking of the link between pay and performance at executive level (a different kind of differentials exercise) all demand serious attention.

Employees, employers and their representatives need to start considering how past mistakes could be avoided in the context of a new government. The current overshoot of the public sector borrowing requirement underlines how difficult it will be to hold down public spending.

It is more than 17 years since the 5 per cent pay round of 1978-79 collapsed, heralding the Winter of Discontent. Now relevant parties seem determined once again to take up opposing positions in public before repeating old mistakes. If an honest, grown-up debate about pay does not take place soon, between all interested players, we will be quoting again the line about history taking place the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

STEFAN STERN

The Industrial Society

London W1

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