Mutiny in the ranks? British Army morale damaged by ‘unfair’ 1% pay rise

© Peter Nicholls
Soldiers from every part of the British Army believe their recent one percent pay rise is “unfair” and “unreasonable,” independent officials have found.

Researchers from the Armed Forces Pay Review Body surveyed soldiers across the army in the wake of the pay rise, announcing the results on Tuesday. 

On our visits, there was more dissatisfaction expressed over pay levels and the one percent increase than previously,” the report found.

Almost every group we spoke with considered the increase to be unreasonable when compared with inflation and the increases in accommodation and food charges. Personnel made the case that one percent was a real-terms pay cut and that it was unfair.

The pay rise is in line with Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s one percent cap for public sector workers’ pay. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman confirmed “the government has accepted the independent Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body’s proposal for a one per cent increase.

Labour Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry told the Telegraph the report confirmed “our armed forces are finding their pay falling ever further behind the cost of living, and it is no surprise that morale within our armed forces is being so badly damaged as a result.”

Osborne should heed the lessons of history when adjusting soldiers’ wages. Pay disputes have been treacherous territory for the British military in the past, despite the rank-and-file being unable to defend their working conditions by joining a union or taking strike action.

Around 1,000 sailors went on an illegal military strike over public sector pay cuts in 1931, leading to a tense standoff with the Admiralty. The incident became known as the Invergordon Mutiny.

The key issue was a 25 percent cut to junior ranks’ pay, in the context of the Great Depression.

Their efforts were interspersed with refusals to obey orders, and renditions of the socialist anthem ‘The Red Flag’ were reported among sailors. Royal Marines – who were stationed aboard ships to keep discipline – joined in with the strikes.

The servicemen formed strike committees on the ships despite efforts by their chain of command to justify the pay cut. A number of strikers were jailed and some 200 sailors discharged from the service.