Shameless Tory MPs cheered as they blocked a bid to scrap the pay cap for struggling public sector workers including nurses, firefighters and police.
The Conservatives managed to scrape victory as MPs voted 323 to 309, with a majority of just 14 scuppering Labour’s effort to end the 1 per cent pay freeze.
Labour had tabled a Queen’s Speech amendment to “end the public sector pay cap and give the emergency and public services a fair pay rise.”
Theresa May would not have seen off Labour’s challenge were it not for her deal with 10 DUP MPs, who were bunged £1bn for Northern Ireland public services in order to secure their loyalty.
Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Now we can see exactly what this Bung Parliament will mean for working people.
How dare they?
“How dare the Tories ever again praise our emergency heroes, or look the people who teach our children, clean our streets or tend to our sick in the eye. This vote shows exactly who is on the side of working people – and it is not the Tories.
“They are an affront to the values of this country, putting their tired, out of touch party above the needs of the people. The sooner they are gone, the sooner the decency is restored to working life,” he said.
The Tories have imposed a cap on public sector pay since they came to power seven years ago. In 2010, public sector pay was frozen for two years and since then has been capped at 1 percent a year.
This has meant wages falling behind rising prices, causing many nurses to take second jobs and others to rely on pay day loans just to support themselves. NHS bosses have also warned that staff are leaving to stack shelfs because of the low pay.
Before the vote a Tory spokesman had hinted that May was considering axing the pay cap.
At 1pm, 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 4pm 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”.
Speaking after the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “Tonight the Conservatives had an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is… Instead they marched through the lobby to show Tory austerity is business as usual.”
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said Unite NHS staff were considering industrial action against the pay cap.
“Unite’s nurses and health members are reaching the end of their tether over the pay cap. It was bad enough before inflation began to sky-rocket, but NHS workers are beginning to ask themselves how much more they can take,” said Carpenter.
“A recent Unite survey found that 64 per cent of Unite’s health service staff are willing to take industrial action short of a strike, while 53 per cent are prepared to strike. Nor it is just Unite health service members, the RCN is also threatening strike action and we know that workers across the public sector feel the same.”
Carpenter added, “It’s disgusting that the only way the Tories can continue their deeply unpopular pay freeze is by handing the DUP cash from Theresa May’s “magic money tree” to sustain Northern Ireland’s own ailing public services. Hypocritical isn’t the word.”