Miliband defends backing public sector pay freeze


Labour leader Ed Miliband: ''I think it's right to protect jobs''

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has defended his party's decision to support the government's pay freeze for public sector workers.

He said it was "a hard choice", but when faced with either protecting jobs or giving pay rises, it was "absolutely right to prioritise employment".

Unions have criticised the move, accusing Labour of "emulating the Tories on many issues".

But Mr Miliband told the BBC his party had to show it was "fiscally credible".

The government announced in 2010 that public sector pay for those earning more than £21,000 would be frozen for two years.

Then last November Chancellor George Osborne said pay would rise by only 1% in the two years to 2015.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said on Saturday that "given the economy failing as it is... pay restraint is going to have to continue".


In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Miliband defended the stance.

Start Quote

We are absolutely determined that Labour shows we would be fiscally credible in government”

End Quote Ed Miliband

"It's a hard choice, but when you are faced with the choice between protecting jobs or saying the money should go into pay rises I think it's right to protect jobs," he said.

"In the end there's no easy choices in government... I think is absolutely right that we say we've got to prioritise employment."

Several Labour MPs have reportedly criticised the move, among them Austin Mitchell. According to the Daily Mail he has called it "barmy" and accused Mr Miliband of "weakness".

Mr Miliband said Mr Mitchell was "wrong", adding: "We are absolutely determined that Labour shows we would be fiscally credible in government."

PCS union leader Mark Serwotka said Mr Balls' comments were "hugely disappointing", while the general secretary of the RMT rail union said he was signing "Labour's electoral suicide note".

Neither the PCS or RMT are affiliated to the Labour Party.

'Responsible opposition'

In a speech earlier this week, Mr Miliband said a future Labour government would have less to spend than those in the past, but could still "deliver fairness".

He told Andrew Marr: "If Labour was in power now we wouldn't be making those changes, we wouldn't be cutting as far and as fast as the government.

Start Quote

They can't be hugely critical of the government one day and then say they'd have the same policy the next”

End Quote Simon Hughes Lib Dem deputy leader

"But then when it comes to the next Labour government, if I was saying to you, 'I can absolutely promise to restore this cut or that cut,' well, you would say, 'Where is the money going to come from for that? How do you know what you will inherit?'

"This is absolutely responsible opposition and it is absolutely the right thing for us to be doing at this stage in the Parliament."

A YouGov poll of 1,761 adults for the Sunday Times has suggested that more Labour voters think Mr Miliband is performing badly as leader than performing well - giving him an overall rating of -3 points. By contrast, David Cameron has a rating among Conservative voters of 91.

But the Labour leader brushed off personal criticism, saying it was "part of the gig of being leader of the opposition".

"It isn't a question of whether you face these times the question is, how do you deal with them? Do you stay the course?

"And that's what I am going to do. It's the right thing to do for the Labour Party and it's the right thing to do for the country."


He insisted that David Cameron was "coming on to my ground" on issues like taking on vested interests and "crony capitalism".

"What gives me confidence is that we are winning the battle of ideas. It's not often you say that about an opposition," he said.

"Why is he coming on to my ground? Because he knows I'm talking about the right issues and the issues that matter to people."

But Foreign Secretary William Hague said that if the government adopted Mr Miliband's approach, the UK's credit rating would be "in danger" of being downgraded like France's.

"That could then mean higher interest rates for businesses for households and can do great damage to the economy," he told Sky News.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it was "ludicrous" to suggest the Tories were following Labour's lead on issues like responsible capitalism.

"David Cameron was way out [in front] on this when Ed Miliband was in the cabinet handing out knighthoods to people like [former Royal Bank of Scotland boss] Fred Goodwin," he told BBC1's Sunday Politics.

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, said it was time that Labour came to its senses, but added: "They can't have it both ways. They can't be hugely critical of the government one day and then say they'd have the same policy the next."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Everything is so B&W for the Tories and New Labour seems afflicted by yet another Tory failing. I am a Civil Servant and my department's staff have been trying to save money since 2006! That year my entire (non-managerial) grade (alone) voted to demote itself and then accepted a pay freeze. When the Tories came in they paid no attention to such sacrifice and both selfish and selfless were frozen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The media are at it again, trying to tell us who we should have as leader...leave Ed alone we don't need the media to tell us what we want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Narrow shoulders, wide hips, shaking his girly fists - I still can't figure out why they can poll nearly half the votes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    50. matt_bristol

    @22 "people on here are blaming the Unions! What for?"

    How about continually trying to profit from a bad situation while the rest of the country has already accepted that things have to change?
    Union influence is negligible, disappeared with platform shoes and The Good Life.

    Your description is however, entirely appropriate for the new unions...Barclays et al

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @55 so you want the bankers to pay for your pay rise, who will pay for the pay rise for the cleaner in the private sector who earns minimum wage? Typical public sector worker attitude, which bit of there is no money for pay rises do you not understand. As for the private sector the majority have been takin pay cuts and no pay rises for the last 5 years due to not having the money for pay rises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Lets get it right!!!! not everybody on under £21k had a pay rise. Local council workers didn't get a penny only civil servants. If you want to save jobs stop giving my taxes to other countries in foreign aid!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    62. johnzdavies

    ..what about his references to the Labour 5 point plan to boost the economy and employment.


    Yes what about it! How can a temporary cut in VAT, which will cost billions, boost the UK economy?

    Growth based on consumerism is a falsehood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    @ Andy B The Unions are not the ones bringing this country to its knees, they may be be unelected by most, but they are elected by their members. Turn your point on its head. The unelected ones are the big business oligarchs and press barrons, who use lobying, directorship bribes, MP blackmail and a feed of lies and celebrity opium via the media to run this country for their own ends. Wake up UK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    48. Daniel
    And the BBC yet again digs out the weirdest picture it can find of Ed Miliband. What's your problem BBC? Impartiality not your watchword anymore? This is ridiculous. If Ed loses leadership, it'll be down to the

    You gotta be joking right?. the BBC anti -Socialist ....the Beeb is more
    left leaning than that the stricken Costa Concordia

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    UK missed the chance to skill up & export new technology to the emerging economies. Now we pay the price with a high % of unskilled people chasing service sector jobs (Macs & Tesco) Unemployment is part of the capital system & full employment is an unrealistic target. Scurrilous politicians won't admit this so they marginalise & demonise the unemployed. Unemployment is a part of the UK landscape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    As I am from the public sector, let me tell you that the money we get paid is fare too much with our pensions added to it as well. Leicester council waste countless amounts of money on staff and the new Nintendo Wiis to say the least. Over christmas, I had to open a total sure start centre, for the about 5 people from the nsh! It was a total waste of time and money. Keep slashing I say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    All very well in saving jobs, however, I work in a public sector and given that everything else is going up and my wages will remain the same for the years to come I wonder if the politicians have thought how people in my situation are going to see the month through?!! I earn £1200 after tax per month and have to support my family!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    I watched the ED Balls speech - his position was that he could not promise to change things yet because he did not know what the state of the economy etc would be. However, this was a small element of the speech - effectively misreported by the BBC with extreme bias - what about his references to the Labour 5 point plan to boost the economy and employment. Discgraceful reporting by the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    So the public sector has had a pay freeze for the last three years, my company shut down a site, half of the existing staff have been sacked, and those left, put on short time, a three day week for a year, we didn't cause the credit crunch either, but if we had gone on strike the whole company would have gone out of business, we are just seeing a glimmer light.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Hard choice made too late. The system was designed for the majority to leave school at 15. Work, pay tax till 65, die at 66 with a safe net to catch those that fell on hard times. That changed to leave uni mid 20s work till mid 50s and live till 80s or better still make a lifestyle choice to live on benefits. No politician had the guts to say this can't go on until the straw broke the camels back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    In certain areas the councils are making people redundant then re-hiring them not exactly conducive with saving money now is it?? Yet more and more council executives cream off the top like our cheif executive on £160,000 a year with three others totaling over £849,000 says it all really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    They now want us to trust them again with the that's a laugh.
    Economy needs to be managed by the Government not by the banks...labour/tory light touch regulation is the underlying cause...just like it was in the US and most of the Eurozone.
    The tories now have the opportunity to regulate, instead they're shielding Hedge Funds and Banks from "restrictive" legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    just another politician 'not fit for purpose' along with almost every other politician in the world. What's so different about ed(note the little 'e') is that he is a total irrelevance, bullied by everyone, especially the arch bully Flashman (oops sorry Cameron). They are both incapable of understanding real people's problems, and neither would help if they could. Please go ed NOW!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Please don't play the Conservative's game. Labour and the Tories are not the same. Their policies on the job creation, education and NHS reform are massively different.

    Unfortunately because ideological Tory cuts have caused rising unemployment Milliband has had to prioritise job creation. He is right to do so. Once growth is achieved fair pay for public servants can be secured.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Its always the Public Sector which gets penalised and suffers from bad government and pay never catches up. This time, however, the financial problems were caused by banks so why aren't banks profits and bankers bonuses being used to help pay for public sector pay rises??? Its only fair isn't it?


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