By politics.co.uk staff
A thinktank report has triggered a row with the TUC over whether public sector workers are better off than their private sector counterparts.
Policy Exchange's Controlling Public Spending publication claimed public sector staff enjoyed better pay and pensions, as well as shorter hours and earlier retirement.
The figures were quickly rebuffed by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, who attacked the thinktank for providing "deliberately misleading" statistics.
"For Policy Exchange every nurse, every doctor, every teacher is a drag on the economy," he said.
"The rest of us know that they all - and countless other public servants - provide a vital role.
"Far from holding back the private sector, the public sector educates and trains their workforce, buys many of their goods and services, keeps their staff healthy and provides the vital infrastructure without which the UK would travel back to the 19th century."
The thinktank's report said the effect of better pensions was to make their salaries worth an extra 15%, equivalent to 9.2 years of a public sector employee's working life.
"People used to say that public sector workers had great pensions to make up for their low salaries,"
"That's now out of date, as public sector workers have much better pay, as well as better pensions and conditions," Policy Exchange's chief economist Andrew Lilico said.
"People in the public sector are better paid and have pensions worth more - while enjoying shorter hours, more time off, and earlier retirement. There is scope to make savings without being unfair."
His report calls for the public sector pay bill to be frozen in cash terms for the next four years, taking the pay bill back to 2003 in real terms.