LABOUR slammed “preposterous” Tory comments yesterday after the Conservatives claimed that lifting the 1 per cent public-sector pay cap would trigger a financial crisis like that of Greece.
The assertion by Prime Minister Theresa May that awarding front-line emergency services workers and NHS medical staff a pay increase equal to or above the rate of inflation would bankrupt the country was met with derision after Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and an urgent Commons question on the matter.
On the 69th anniversary of the NHS’s foundation, queries were raised about the falling wages of health service workers, including medics.
A senior Labour spokesman added: “The situation in Greece is tied up with the eurozone and the management of the eurozone banks. We are not in that situation.”
During PMQs, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Tories of “recklessly exploiting the goodwill” of public-sector workers.
He said there had been a “week of flip-flopping and floundering” by the government over the pay cap, which is causing “real shortages” in staff.
Mr Corbyn asked how Ms May could find £1 billion for Northern Ireland in order to “keep her own job” through a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party while neglecting public-sector workers.
Commons Speaker John Bercow had to intervene for a second time after Conservative MPs erupted at Mr Corbyn saying the Prime Minister “simply doesn’t get it.”
In response to the Tory barracking, the Labour leader said: “People who are making excessive noise should try to calm themselves and perhaps give a moment’s thought to whether they would like to be viewed by their constituents shrieking their heads off.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, in raising the urgent question, said Chancellor Philip Hammond had “no understanding” of why public-sector workers are “so angry” over their pay being held down while corporations have their taxes reduced.
He accused the Cabinet of being in “absolute chaos,” pointing out that ministers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have argued against the cap.
Mr McDonnell asked Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss to confirm whether workers would have to wait until the next Budget to find out whether the cap would be lifted for the next two years. She replied that the government has yet to consider further recommendations from pay review bodies.
Public-sector union PCS said her emphasis on pay review bodies was “misleading” because 55 per cent of public-sector workers are not covered by one.
GMB national officer for the NHS Kevin Brandstatter called on ministers to take action rather than offer empty platitudes.