Jeremy Corbyn said at the TUC that the Labour Party "totally rejects the Tories' attempt to divide and rule" by offering pay rises to some and not others.
The cabinet voted this afternoon to abandon the long-standing 1 per cent cap on public sector pay. Their new offer is derisory, but it at least shows they’re now ready to negotiate.
The government is offering a 2 per cent pay rise to police officers and 1.7 per cent to prison officers, and said they would be “flexible” on public sector pay from next year.
However, inflation measured by the CPI is currently 2.9 per cent, so in reality the ‘pay rises’ offered by the Tories today represent a pay cut in real terms.
Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn told the TUC this afternoon that the offer represented a pay cut given the level of inflation.
Corbyn said that by scrapping the 1 per cent cap for police and prison workers but not other employees in the public sector, the government were trying to “divide people on the cheap”. He added:
“The government’s position seems to chance by the hour. At the weekend we were led to believe the pay cap was a thing of the past. Yesterday, the prime minister’s spokersperson said it would be ‘continued as planned.”
The general secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady called the offer “pathetic”. The TUC are demanding a 5 per cent pay rise across the board for public sector workers. O’Grady commented:
“Public sector workers have suffered seven long years of real pay cuts, and are thousands of pounds worse off. Today’s announcement means bills will continue to rise faster than their wages.
O’Grady went on: “if Ministers think a derisory rise like this will deal with the staffing crisis in our public services, they are sorely mistaken.”
The pay cap has been a key plank to the Tories’ austerity programme and has been in place since 2010.
Over these seven years, firemen, teachers, NHS workers, civil servants and key workers have seen their pay fall by between £2,000 and £4,000 in real terms.
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said “it is good to see the government finally recognise that the public sector pay cap is no longer sustainable.” He added:
“Nurses, teachers and other public sector workers are set to be hundreds of pounds worse off in real terms as a result of rising inflation. Unless urgent action is taken, the recruitment crisis in nursing and teaching will only get worse.”
Although the offer made by the government is hardly a concession to our public sector workers, it at least shows that they’re prepared to take a seat at the negotiating table. It will now be up to the unions to push the government for a better offer.
LFF are covering the whole of TUC Congress – watch this space for updates. Email [email protected] with tips, pitches, or if there’s something we’ve missed.
Oscar Webb is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. He tweets here.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.