David Fry, director of a group that advises on what public workers should be paid, said the review body setting prison workers’ pay has heard reports of staff leaving to become delivery drivers.
“Other markets that people could move into have been increasing, so the review body has been hearing reports of people leaving to become … supermarket workers, delivery drivers and other areas,” the Office of Manpower Economics boss told MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
They’ve been through a lot personally, emotionally, mentally, and if they can get a job in a supermarket that is not as emotionally demanding and very often on better pay, why not?
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady
The office gives independent advice to eight pay review bodies that help set the pay for nearly half of all public sector staff.
Mr Fry’s comments were echoed by Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady.
She said porters and cleaners at NHS hospitals are seeing opportunities elsewhere.
“What they say to me is that they did their duty during the pandemic. They were always a little cynical about the clapping and how long that would last,” she said.
“They’ve been through a lot personally, emotionally, mentally, and if they can get a job in a supermarket that is not as emotionally demanding and very often on better pay, why not?”
Ms O’Grady took aim at comments from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, and others, that increasing workers’ pay will push up inflation.
“I think, given the news today, it has been proven that it is simply nonsense to suggest that we are in a pay inflation spiral,” she said, referring to new data showing a 3.7% drop in real wages in the three months to May.
It is the worst fall since records began in 2001.
“The real challenge we face is how on earth we improve people’s pay packets in order that people can have decent living standards, bring up their families, but also pay their taxes that fund our public services, and spend their money in local economies to keep businesses in the private sector going too,” she added.
“I would strongly advise anybody on more than half a million a year not to be lecturing low-paid workers on what they’re entitled to.”