Unions warned today that millions of public-sector workers face another year of financial hardship after the government imposed a miserly 1 per cent pay rise.
But because of inflation, currently about 3 per cent, it is still effectively a cut to workers' wages.
The rise, which comes into force from next month, will be paid to one million NHS workers, 169,000 doctors and dentists, 170,000 members of the armed forces from the ranks of private to general, 31,000 prison staff, 3,600 senior civil servants, 2,200 members of the judiciary and 500 senior NHS managers.
The Treasury claimed that the pay award was in line with the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in 2011 on public-sector pay following a wage freeze.
But Unison's head of health Christina McAnea pointed out that the union has reported more workers turning to its welfare fund for help with rising fuel bills, debt advice and emergency loans.
"What kind of message does it send to health workers about the value this government places on their work? And what incentive is there for young people to join the NHS when they are so undervalued?" she asked.
"Freezing and squeezing pay is crushing morale and heaping financial misery on more than a million NHS workers. At the same time the NHS is going through a massive reorganisation and staff are dealing with job cuts, rationing and ever-increasing patient numbers."
Unite assistant general secretary for the public sector Gail Cartmail added that Chancellor George Osborne was continuing his "socially and economically divisive policies" in the run-up to next week's budget.
"Working people are faced with average energy bills of £1,400 a year and soaring food prices, yet ministers march blithely onwards," she said.
"Public-sector workers contribute greatly to their local economies, so if their pay packets are further squeezed this has an adverse knock-on effect in the local high street - and this will hinder economic recovery.
"Unite will be campaigning in the next 12 months for public-sector workers to receive a substantial and fair uplift in their wages for the year 2014-15."
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