Unions call for public sector pay rise as Rishi Sunak prepares spending review

The Chancellor delivers the spending review on Wednesday (Image: HMT)

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Unions today demand a pay rise for public sector workers – as Rishi Sunak prepares to inflict a “morally obscene” cut to their wages.

The Chancellor is expected to freeze salaries for nearly four million staff – a real terms reduction when inflation is taken into account – when he delivers his spending review on Wednesday.

But 19 workers' leaders, including the general secretaries of prison officers', teachers' and health unions, have written to Mr Sunak making the case for a wallet-boosting hike.

Their letter says: “Fair pay increases are essential if we are to avoid potentially crippling staff shortages in parts of the sector.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady warned yesterday: "There's still time for the Government to step back and I would encourage them to think again.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady
(Image: PA)

“This is not smart politics, it's morally obscene and it's bad economics too.”

Ms O'Grady, who has also signed the letter, said last night: “All public sector workers are key workers.

“Care workers, teaching assistants, refuse collectors firefighters and all our dedicated public servants are the ones getting us through this crisis – often at great personal risk.

“Holding down their pay is no way to reward their service.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Covid has sent shockwaves through the economy.

“But freezing the pay of public service workers will make the recovery much harder.

Unison chief Dave Prentis
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

“It’s a short-sighted, irrational, and callous move.

“Wage rises would put extra cash in families’ pockets for them to spend locally.

“The Government must show it values all workers who continue to go the extra mile to protect us.”

Experts also backed calls for a wage rise.

The New Economics Foundation's head of economics, Lydia Prieg, said: “It should be a no-brainer for government.

“Paying our public sector workers properly can help us through this crisis and support our economic recovery on the other side.”

Mr Sunak hinted at freezing public sector pay yesterday, telling Sky News: "When we launched the spending review I did say to departments that when we think about public pay settlements I think it would be entirely reasonable to think of those in the context of the wider economic climate.

"I think it would be fair to also think about what is happening with wages, with jobs, with hours, across the economy, when we think about what the right thing to do in the public sector is."

But he claimed there would be no return to “austerity”.

Labour opposed the pay freeze.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds told the BBC: “I do not think there should be that freeze right now.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds
(Image: PHILIP COBURN)

“I thinks that's economically very damaging, it's an irresponsible choice.”

In a speech to Reuters today, she will say: “Freezing the pay of firefighters, hospital porters and teaching assistants will make them worried about making ends meet ahead of Christmas – that means they’ll cut back on spending and our economy won’t recover as quickly.”

Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell said it would be "morally" wrong to freeze the pay of those who supported the nation throughout the pandemic.

Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

"It would be an absolute kick in the teeth for them after what has been a horrendous few months and what will still be a difficult few months to come,” she added.

The GMB union said research suggested public-sector employees outnumber new Tory MPs' majorities in 43 out of the 54 seats that the Conservatives won from Labour last year.

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