The Sun accuses Unison of ‘cashing in’ by saying nurses should get a pay rise too

The union says MPs' pay rise should be matched with rise for public sector workers. The Sun disagrees


Politics has been relegated from the front pages of the Sun since the general election, but some subjects can still get its goat.

One of these is apparently higher wages for nurses and street cleaners.

As the prime minister looks set to roll over and allow an increase in MPs’ salaries, the union Unison has called for the 10 per cent rise recommended by Ipsa, the independent quango, to be matched with an equal pay rise for its 1.3million members.

Britain’s best-selling newspaper is having none of it. Its panicked story on p2 today begins:

Wage war: Unison chiefs pressure PM

David Cameron is under huge pressure to act over a 10 per cent hike in MPs’ pay – as health workers demand they get ‘at least the same’.

Public service giant Unison, whose million public sector members range from nurses to street cleaners, said: ‘We hope this is a signal for the end of pay restraint.’

Sounds reasonable, you might think. (The Unison quote, not the slanted reporting.)

Well think again. Here’s the Sun’s editorial column today:

Unions cash in

Surprise, surprise. Now the unions say their members should get a 10 per cent rise, like MPs.

Who in the Commons can argue? Certainly no-one planning to take the monster hike recommended by Ipsa.

That includes, with reluctance, the prime minister – who’s hoping to appease his backbenchers who privately think they’re well worth it.

Britain cannot afford to give everyone in the public sector 10 per cent. And Mr Cameron and his MPs cannot afford politically to pocket the rise while the Labour front bench shun it.

It’s a pickle.

The PM may need to scrap Ipsa and go back to the drawing board.

‘Cashing in’ apparently means demanding for ‘nurses and street cleaners’ (and many others) what some MPs assume as a right.

To put this into perspective, the average starting salary for an NHS nurse is £21,000, while MPs are currently paid £67,000 – more than three times as much.

I could quote Unison beyond that one sentence in the Sun story, but instead, here’s what the paper’s horse in the general election, prime minister David Cameron, said when the pay rise for MPs was first floated:

“The idea of an 11 per cent pay rise in one year at a time of pay restraint, I think, is simply unacceptable.”

The Sun evidently disagrees. It admits that (‘with reluctance’!) Mr Cameron will accept an extra £7,000 a year.

But while ‘Britain cannot afford’ a pay rise for nurses and cleaners, its main objection to the ‘monster hike’ for MPs is that Cameron ‘cannot afford politically to pocket the rise while the Labour front bench shun it’.

Are these the principles of Sun readers, or just its editors and proprietors?

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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