In his PBR today Alistair Darling has announced a public sector pay freeze for 4 million UK workers, including vital frontline staff such as nurses, police and teachers.
Meanwhile, over in la-la land, the Dutch, French and Spanish press report that EU civil servants in Brussels are planning a strike for Monday against attempts by 15 member state governments (including the UK) to stop 38,000 EU civil servants (including Commissioners) getting an inflation-busting 3.7% payrise. (Standaard Standaard 2 Le Monde)
The member states are resisting because the wages of national civil servants are being frozen or cut. The national governments claim that because of the economic crisis, an exceptional clause in the civil servants' statute should enter into force. The clause states that "in times of serious and sudden deterioration of the economic and social situation" in the EU, the Commission can impose a new wage proposal.
However, according to some reports, it looks likely that national governments will have to agree to the pay rise, because they are contractually bound to the agreement and are likely to lose the case if it goes to the European Court of Justice. Trade unions are demanding that member states "respect the rules".
Not only that, but a Trade Union President with 38 years experience working in the Commission told Spanish paper El Mundo today that the payrise should go ahead because the money "has already been put aside", and would otherwise "end up being lost in the EU budget and will go on milk quotas."
Great. So either we grant the unjustified payrise, or we waste the money on milk quotas. What a choice.