LABOUR and trade unions called for the Tories’ hated 1 per cent public-sector pay cap to be lifted yesterday with the government now promising it will come “under review.”
However, unions were left sceptical by Prime Minister Theresa May’s vague pledge, which came hours before MPs were set to vote on a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech on the pay cap last night — after the Star went to print.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which held a national day of “scrap the cap” protests on Tuesday, warned of possible industrial action over pay. Labour MPs in the Commons wore an RCN badge promoting their fair pay campaign.
There is a “human price” to pay for Tory austerity and its detrimental affect on essential public-sector workers such as emergency staff and medics, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said.
During the Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech, she argued that workers needed to be treated “fairly” for their invaluable work during times of disaster — such as the Grenfell Tower fire.
It’s not enough for MPs to praise their service and heroism without paying them properly for it, she added, and the pay cap — or a real-term wage cut — will see staff quit.
A senior No 10 source said the PM had “heard the message” from the general election that voters were “weary” of austerity.
GMB union national officer Rehana Azam said: “Public-sector pay cuts were always a political choice.
“Theresa May has been forced into this position because of her reduced majority, but the GMB won’t stop campaigning until public-sector workers have had a proper pay rise.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that the government must do more than use the promise of a review as a “stalling tactic” by actually committing to finally ending the pay cap.
A recent TUC poll showed that 76 per cent of voters want to give public-sector workers a pay rise — including 68 per cent of Conservative voters.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This can’t be kicked in to the long grass, it needs to happen now. And any increase has to be backed by new money, not by loading extra costs on councils, hospitals and schools.”
Civil Service union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he would only welcome the review if it was a “sign of the government beginning to see sense.”
But, he continued, any review must lead to the cap being lifted for all public-sector workers — “nothing else will be acceptable.”
The vote on the issue will have been the first test of Ms May’s minority government propped up by 10 DUP MPs. The Lib Dems have said they will support the Labour amendment.
Public-sector workers have seen incomes fall in relation to inflation after two years of pay freezes and four years of annual caps since 2010.
Former chancellor George Osborne announced a further four years of 1 per cent caps in the 2015 budget, leaving rises well below prices in a period when inflation has risen to 2.9 per cent.