In what will be seen by many as an eye opening report, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published a report that shows that public sector employees get paid more on a total reward basis than their private sector counterparts.

This will be viewed by some as almost heresy. After all, it is a well known fact that the public sector workers get paid far less than those in the private sector. That's why a disparity in retirement age and pension rewards was built in, wasn't it?

The ONS derived their analysis using evidence from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) with total reward being gross pay plus employer pension contributions.

The abstract to the ONS report though says "Total reward for full-time employees is higher in the public sector than the private sector, predominately due to the larger proportion of employees who do not belong to employer pension schemes (with zero pension contributions) in the private sector".

The report does go on to say that where workers do have pensions then, on a like for like basis, the private sector comes off better as you might expect.

But overall "Comparing the public and private sectors, the summary statistics (mean, 1st quartile, median and 3rd quartile) for both gross pay and total reward show that fulltime employees were better off in the public sector than in the private sector, and this result also held for breakdowns by sex".

While this could be used as a hammer to beat the unions with prior to their expected c0-ordinated strike actions, the report also points out that no comparison was made between actual jobs and that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)  found that ‘pay levels in the public sector are probably not significantly out of line with those of similar workers in the private sector, once you take into account factors such as their age, education and qualifications’.

But what this does show is that the public sector workers are not a down trodden work-force. They have been well cared for.

In the Telegraph the director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs said "The idea that the public should rally round these 'oppressed' workers is ludicrous. Why should their higher salaries be paid for by waitresses and hairdressers? An attack on public sector pay is not an attack on the poor but the privileged."

The trade unions calling for public sector workers to unite in a co-ordinated action would be well advised to read this report first. And then consider how much worse for their case it would have been if the report had included that most important of career factors that the public sector has over the private sector – job security.

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