Today, Professor Richard Kerley, co-chair of the CSPP, talked about public sector wages on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland.
Interviewer Laura Maxwell asked for Professor Professor Kerley’s reaction to Chancellor Philip Hammonds’ claims that public sector workers were paid an average of 10% more than private sector workers when pensions were taken into account.
Professor Kerley dismissed this estimation as ‘broadly wrong’, arguing that some ‘absurd examples’, such as train drivers, had been cited to evaluate public sector workers’ wages, adding:
‘Train drivers have been employed by private companies for twenty-odd years now, and have managed to negotiate their way into a very high wage band. Whether it’s appropriate or not is not for me to judge, but they’ve done so because of the mode of privatization used by the then major government.’
Prompted by Laura Maxwell to discuss disparities between the private and public sector in Scotland, in comparison with England, Professor Kerley added that differences existed not only between England and Scotland, but also between different parts of England and Scotland, and within Scotland itself. In the last few years, Scotland has had the third highest average pay in the UK, taking both the public and private sector into account. However, while pay levels tend to be higher in the public sector at the bottom end of the scale, the opposite is true at the higher end of the scale.
Professor Kerley then remarked on the inadequacy of current methods of comparison between the private and public sector, stating that jobs in the latter tended to be ‘more highly educated, more highly qualified’, with ‘higher skill intensity and higher knowledge intensity.’ In Scotland, for example, the immense majority of teachers are graduates, with many also holding a postgraduate qualification. As a result, Professor Kerley stated, contrasting them with professions ranging from ‘food service, to mining and oil and gas extraction’ makes little sense, and comparisons should be drawn between similar professions (for example, lawyers in the public and private sector) in order to be truly effective. Professor Kerley concluded by stressing that unsustainably low pay levels also precluded workers from contributing fully to the growth of the economy.
Listen to the full interview on BBC Iplayer, at 7:48.