Discontent growing in the UK public sector

2005

British public sector workers are nearly three times more likely to be critical of the services they provide than their colleagues in the private sector, a new poll has revealed.

The survey by the Work Foundation has also pointed to increasing public sector dissatisfaction during the course of 2005.

The survey, conducted at the height of the row over public sector retirement ages earlier this autumn, indicated the depth of feeling among many public sector workers over this issue, said the foundation.

The Workers Index poll, conducted by pollster Mori, found unhappiness in the public sector had increased since February, a shift not mirrored in the private sector.

One in six of public sector workers said they would be critical of the services they provided, up from 10 per cent recorded in February.

This compared with just 6 per cent of private sector workers who were critical of their organisation's services, largely unchanged from the 7 per cent recorded in February.

Lower morale among public sector workers was suggested as a cause for this by more a quarter of public sector workers, identifying "higher morale and more motivated staff" as one of the most important factors needed to help them do a better job, up from one in five in February.

Again this rise was unmatched in the private sector, said the Work Foundation.

There were also gaps between the public and private in their views of their senior management.

While dissatisfaction with senior managers had risen by 10 percentage points since February in both sectors, senior managers in the private sector continued to get better ratings.

A total of 61 per cent of private sector workers thought their senior team had a clear vision for their organisation, compared with 53 per cent of public sector workers.

David Coats, associate director, policy, at the Work Foundation, said: "These are worrying findings for the government, reflecting declining trust in the public sector as an employer.

"In part the discontent may be explained by the public service pensions debate, still raging at the time the research was conducted," he added.

The furore over the retirement age of public servants was seen as a significant threat to the 'implicit contract' with their employer, he suggested.

"The dissatisfaction with senior managers may reflect a lack of political leadership and a failure to engage employees and their representatives," he said.

"Public service reform will only succeed if government makes a more determined effort to enlist the workforce and trade unions as partners in the process of change," he added.