You can still coin it in if you’ve got the right skills

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THE country is still mired in economic gloom. Growth is flatlining, unemployment is on the rise, pay freezes and pay cuts are the norm, and the banks are still refusing to part with any cash to small businesses.

Well that’s unless you’re a small business in banking and can be temporarily employed by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Then it seems you’re quids in.

Less than three years after bringing the economy to the brink of collapse, an erroneously sent e-mail has shown that the price of hiring a banker on a temporary contract is £2000 a day. The document, circulated by accident to casual workers at state-owned RBS, contained the day-rate paid to 3000 different contractors.

It comes, rather embarrassingly, just a few months after RBS revealed that 100 senior executives took home more than £1 million each last year, with a team of just five workers sharing an astonishing £26m.

Unsurprisingly, the latest revelation about temp workers has been met with anger. David Fleming, Unite national officer says: “It is wholly inappropriate that RBS, backed by taxpayers, appears to be throwing money at thousands of contractors at a time when RBS continues to cut large numbers of staff.”

Paul Kenny, GMB (general trade union) general secretary adds: “In any rational world these contractors are not worth £2000 a day. It is high time that the management at RBS got a grip and paid people the proper rate for the job.”

But there’s the nub of the matter. It is, as they say, the skills that pay the bills. If you’ve got what an employer needs then your salary could still be on the rise.

Suzanne Ramsay, chief executive of Edinburgh firm Change Recruitment, the largest financial services recruitment firm in Scotland, says it’s talent that helps when it comes to getting a pay rise. “In general terms the financial services recruitment market is buoyant and we are seeing pay rises of between five and ten per cent in investment firms, fund management positions and other finance jobs.

“One of the big areas is technology, and those who work in software development and testing are also seeing their salaries rise as there is a high demand for their skills. A lot of financial businesses had technology projects which were mothballed during the recession but are now starting to go ahead.”

She adds: “Businesses will always pay money for talent and, to be honest, the only place we are seeing caution on salary rises is actually with the banks themselves.”

But bankers are not the only ones who are seeing their pay increase in these times of austerity.

According to earnings data published by the Office of National Statistics in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, which covers the average pay for full-time workers in nearly 300 trades and professions, there are still jobs where the words “annual increment” do not inspire cynical laughter.

While the figures, drawn from tax records, show that for full-time employees’ annual average wages have grown by just 0.3 per cent to £25,900 from £25,800 in 2009, some wage packets are expanding faster than others.

The occupation which saw the biggest rise in pay in 2010 were authors and writers, with a 15.2 per cent rise to £25,522 per year. Speech and language therapists also saw a rise of 13.1 per cent, bringing their average wage packet to £25,964, while trading standard and factory inspectors saw a rise of 12.2 per cent, bringing their average to £33,171.

Despite their rises they are nowhere near the best-paid in UK PLC. That honour is still held by the directors and chief executives of major organisations, with an average annual salary of £96,202 – even though they did receive the third-highest pay cut in the last year, with salaries down from £115,576 in 2009.

The second-best paid are corporate managers and senior officials, who earn on average £70,000 per year, a decrease of 7.9 per cent from 2009.

And the third position goes to medical practitioners who’ve seen a rise of 4.1 per cent in the last year bringing their average annual salary to £69,989 in 2010.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, says: “Pay freezes are thawing. But firms are continuing to keep a tight rein on costs. It is still quite a muted pay market for employees.”

One silver lining on the black cloud of economic gloom though, is that living in Edinburgh is good for your bank balance – whether you’re in financial services or not.

According to figures from the council, people in Edinburgh do get paid more than the average for Scotland, with median earnings hitting £26,623 a year. Just don’t spend it all in one shop.