Large majorities think many public sector workers should be given pay rises above one per cent, and most Labour voters think their party should support strike action if pay demands are not met, according to my latest poll.
Support for higher increases in pay is greatest for nurses (86 per cent), police officers (75 per cent) and the Armed Forces (70 per cent), though only just over half say they support rises above one per cent for doctors, and immigration and border staff. Only one in three would support such a rise for civil servants. Most Conservative voters support bigger rises for all the groups we asked about apart from teachers, doctors and civil servants.
Where is the money coming from?
Those who supported pay rises above one per cent were asked how they should be funded: through higher taxes, more government borrowing, or cutting spending in other areas. Just over four in ten (42 per cent), said they favoured making savings elsewhere, though Labour voters preferred higher taxes (46 per cent) to making savings elsewhere in the government’s budget. Overall, 39 per cent favoured higher taxes to fund public sector pay rises.
Having been presented with this choice, nearly one in ten (9 per cent) said none of these options were acceptable and the pay cap should stay after all. Private sector workers (13 per cent) were more than twice as likely as public sector workers to think this.
To strike or not to strike?
Despite public support for pay rises, sympathy for strike action would be much more limited. Fewer than half (43 per cent) said they would support a strike by nurses (though two thirds of Labour voters would do so), and only 36 per cent (and 57 per cent of Labour voters) would approve of action by teachers. Support was lower for strike action by police and prison officers, immigration staff and civil servants; large majorities of Conservatives said they would oppose action in every case.
In all cases, support for potential strike action was higher among public sector than private sector workers, but only in the case of nurses did a majority (53 per cent) of public sector workers say they would support strike action.
What should (and would) Labour do?
Only one in three voters overall thought Labour should support any strike for higher public sector pay – but more than half (52 per cent) thought the party would do so in practice. However, the proportion of Labour voters saying their party should support the strike was the same as that saying it would in fact do so.
Public sector workers (45 per cent) were nearly twice as likely as private sector workers (23 per cent) to say Labour should support such strikes – but private sector workers were nearly as likely as those in the public sector to think the party would do so if the situation arose.
Who pays better?
Finally, we asked how people thought pay in the public and private sectors compared for similar jobs. Nearly half (46 per cent), and a majority of Labour voters, said they thought private sector pay was higher. Only one in five believed pay was higher in the public sector. Conservative voters were the most likely to say this, but still only one in three of them said they thought this was the case.
By a 46-point margin, public employees thought private sector pay was higher for similar jobs. Private sector employees were much more evenly divided, but still more likely to think public pay was lower than that it was higher.
1,580 adults were interviewed online on 14 and 15 September 2017. Data have been weighted to be representative of all adults in Great Britain. Full data tables are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com