Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pay and productivity: freezes and unforeseen consequences

On the Civil Society website there is a short article on XpertHr’s annual review of pay trends. It finds that for 2009-10 the highest median basic pay award was in the general manufacturing and food, drink and tobacco sectors with median pay rises of 2 per cent. However, in the charity sector the median pay rise was only 1 per cent. The median pay award for housing associations was nil.

On the Viewpoint blog of Centre for Market and Public Organisation a Bristol University there is a discussion of where public sector productivity is likely to go in the age of austerity.

Interestingly it suggests:

With the prospect of public sector pay freezes, quality decreases may arise through talented staff leaving for the private sector. Research suggests that remuneration over the lifetime is roughly similar in the public and private sector with a small public sector premium. Hence there is a risk, with public sector pay frozen, and if jobs become available, that quality will decrease if some of the most able employees go private.

This impact has been overlooked and/or ignored in the debate about public sector pay. Of course, the pay freeze is accompanied by the pension levy which will amount to a 3% pay cut for most public sector workers. Voluntary redundancy programmes may well allow some of the best staff to leave - the "muppet retention scheme" syndrome.

Whether deteriorating quality is reflecting in productivity yardsticks hinges on how accurately public sector productivity is and can be measured.

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