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Threat of industrial relations problems in public sector as morale plummets, reports Totaljobs

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Morale among public sector staff is worsening, potentially leading to worsening industrial relations, according to Totaljobs.com.

The recruitment site found 53% of those that still work in the public sector say that morale is low, compared to 17% who claim it is high.

In November 2011, 18% of public sector workers would have supported strike action and in the most recent survey, 24% said they would be prepared to withhold their labour and a further 26% would support industrial action that fell short of strikes. Finally, 44% would consider industrial action if the government ploughed on with suggestions to remove the right to collective bargaining and allow for regional variations in pay.

Job cuts, compounded by a three-year pay freeze and proposed changes to benefits, have contributed to a drop in public sector morale. Four in 10 of those still employed in state and local government bodies claim that the public sector is no longer an attractive career, with 64% of these believing that the public perception of the sector has been diminished.

The research reveals, public sector workers are less likely to consider a pay cut in order to save a colleague from redundancy than counterparts in the private sector. Only a quarter of private sector employees admitted that they would refuse a pay cut under such circumstances, which rose to a third of public workers. The findings come after three years of pay freezes, which have seen public employees' real pay shrink.

The research also outlined the implications of recent cuts to public sector pensions and pay on how businesses can hold on to top talent and experience. Almost a third (32%) of the ex-public sector employees surveyed had more than 20 years experience, and 18% had over a quarter of a decade in the sector.

Mike Booker director of public sector at Totaljobs.com said: "With debates on how to keep experience and expertise within the public sector, it is vital that organisations remain attractive to jobseekers today so that it isn't left with staff who cannot continue to support a complex programme of reforms. That is made all the more difficult by a drop in morale, worsening industrial relations and the impression that the public is less supportive of the sector in general. A vibrant, effective public sector is essential for service delivery and very important for the economy as a whole. Job security in the public sector is still a major pull factor for jobseekers and there are still opportunities out there for very rewarding careers.

"Those with experience are often on higher wages because of their seniority and can therefore appear an easier way to cut wage bills. But with those senior members of staff goes the decades of experience and loyalty to the organisation which is difficult to replace, especially as morale falls amongst those still working in the sector."