Expect more disputes over pay rises, warns Barber

FORMER trade union leader Sir Brendan Barber has warned of more industrial disputes as employees begin demanding pay rises.He said workers were seeing the economic recovery as a time to end the wage freeze that has lowered living standards.

The former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress was in Glasgow in his new capacity as chairman of the conciliation service Acas.

He told Scotland on Sunday: “After a period in which there were lower expectations about the ability of employers to increase wages, now the mood is different, so I think pay negotiators will be pressing harder to see some changes.

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“Overall figures for days lost as a result of industrial dispute have remained at low levels. The question is, if there are greater signs of confidence in the economy, that gives people a lot more confidence to knock on employers’ doors looking to see that reflected in pay levels.”

Just last week unions reacted angrily to news that the UK government would continue its policy of public sector pay restraint for another year, offering workers a rise of just 1 per cent. Unions Unite and GMB said they would ballot NHS staff for strike action as it emerged that some health service workers will miss out on the pay rise altogether.

But Barber added: “It’s interesting that recently we’ve seen both politicians and some employers saying that maybe it’s time for bigger pay rises.”

Support for higher wages has come from such unexpected sources as Chancellor George Osborne and CBI director-general John Cridland in recent months.

Osborne came out in support of a significant hike to the national minimum wage, while Cridland used his New Year’s message to suggest businesses should deliver “better pay and more opportunities” for their employees once the recovery is assured.

He said: “If we get productivity going, we are creating more wealth, and can share it.”