Downing Street has been forced to clarify that it is not removing the 1 per cent public sector pay cap, after pressure from several Tory ministers to do so sparked chaos across the administration.
Chancellor Philip Hammond also insisted the pay cap had not been scrapped, in response to public interventions from a number of senior Conservatives worried about the party’s plummeting popularity.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson and environment minister Michael Gove were amongst the most prominent MPs to urge a rethink over the pay freeze.
Former work and pension secretary Stephen Crabb advocated for only some public sector workers – specifically nurses – to be given a pay rise, while police minister Nick Hurd said a pay rise for front-line officers is “under active discussion”.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said, “It is bad enough that the people who care for our sick, who keep us safe and clean our streets have been so dreadfully mistreated for seven long years but now some Tory ministers are turning this into a glamour contest between who they see as deserving of a pay rise and those they think should lump it on continued pay cuts.
“There must be no pick and mix. All public sector workers, including local government workers who aren’t covered by pay review bodies, need a decent pay rise.”
The hypocritical calls for an end to pay austerity come just a week after the Tories, together with the DUP, cheered as they voted down a Queen’s Speech amendment by the Labour Party to give public sector workers a rise.
Hours before last week’s vote, the Tories again caused confusion over their plans for public sector wages when a Tory spokesman hinted that May was considering axing the pay cap.
At 1 pm, he said the PM had “heard the message” of the general election and would heed “pay reviews” that concluded the cap was unsustainable.
However at 4 pm the PM’s official spokesman insisted “our policy has not changed”, leading to accusations that in their chaos the Tories had performed a “U-turn on a U-turn”.
Cartmail said, “Working people are becoming increasingly bewildered by the chaos and confusion of this Tory government over the public sector cap.
“One minute it’s a nudge and wink from a cabinet minister and the prospect of a pay rise, only for Theresa May’s Number 10 to say the pay misery will continue.
“Why can’t this government get the simple message from the election? Pay misery and the cuts which are harming our cherished public services must end.”