NICK Clegg has stepped into the row over the idea of regionalising pay for public sector workers saying the changes are ‘not going to happen’.
Chancellor, George Osborne, and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have raised the possibility of introducing local pay agreements.
Mr Lansley has said that higher rates of pay for public workers in depressed areas mean private firms cannot compete for employees.
But the proposals have drawn fierce criticism from trade unions.
Mr Clegg said: “There is going to be no regional pay system. That is not going to happen. No decisions have been taken.
“All that has been asked is something which happened under the last government - they did it in the Crown Court Service - which is ‘is there, in specific cases, a justification to allow local, not regional, local market-based costs to be reflected in the way people are paid in the public sector?’.
“It is being looked at. Nothing has been decided. I feel very, very strongly as an MP from South Yorkshire with a lot of people in the public services, that we are not going to do anything which simply willy-nilly exacerbates a north-south divide.
“There has been some ludicrous scaremongering, particularly from the trade unions, about what is intended when there is no proposal on the table.”
He added: “I really do think it’s important that people should be reassured that we are not just going to sort of rush headlong in imposing a system from above which would be totally unjust because it would actually penalise people working in some of the most difficult areas.”
Mr Clegg’s stance was welcomed by trade unions.
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The Deputy Prime Minister appears to be softening the line on regional pay. “This is welcome not least because there is no evidence to support the Chancellor’s original contention that public sector pay somehow crowds out pay in the private sector.”
Unison called on Mr Clegg to convince Mr Osborne to ditch the “divisive” plans to introduce regional pay.