Belfast Telegraph

Why are the fat cats never asked to scratch out a living?

By Gail Walker

It's the rich wot gets the pleasure and the poor wot gets the blame ...

Undoubtedly Jim Wells, chair of the Stormont Health Committee, meant well in proposing that NHS workers who earn £21,000 a year should agree to a four-year wage freeze in return for a guarantee of there being no compulsory redundancies as budgets are slashed across the board.

After all, better a bit of belt tightening than no job. But there's belt tightening and belt tightening. Apart from the fact that such a proposed freeze would be subject to legal challenges, the idea already ignores the grim truth that some people's belts are already so tight that they can hardly breathe.

Now, I'm no economist but then you don't have to be to realise the freeze in effect represents a pay cut by 3.3% (the current rate of inflation).

Do that over four years and your talking about a very hefty pay cut indeed.

Plus throw into the mix experts brooding that inflation is set to rocket and - after a couple of years when they have been artificially low - mortgage rates returning to 'normal' levels and our NHS worker on £21,000 will be in a sorry position indeed.

Oh, and as the workforce will shrink through 'natural wastage', our man or woman in the hospital corridor will be doing a brave bit of extra work. Unpaid.

That's not to say that NHS workers should escape the pain. That's an impossibility.

But perhaps, they - and the general public - would all be a bit more keen to listen to pay freeze ideas if they were convinced that plush middle management and their plethora of consultants were stripped out of the system first.

In Northern Ireland terms, £21,000 isn't exactly a pittance but neither does it make you a fat cat ... and, rest assured, cuts or no, they'll always land on their well-manicured paws.


From Belfast Telegraph