Theresa May’s government is under increasing pressure to scrap a one percent cap on public sector, in place since 2010.
On Wednesday Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “flip flopping and floundering” on whether to scrap the cap. The Prime Minister said the country needed to "live within its means".
Yet millions of public sector workers face a daily reality of restrained pay, requiring tough choices and causing a struggle to make ends meet.
And here, a firefighter and two nurses explain how the cap has affected them.
Poor nursing pay is nothing new. I qualified as a registered nurse in 1994 and took a second job when my first child was born in 1996. I needed to ensure that my children were properly clothed and fed, or self-fund my ongoing education such as my MSc, which is required for my job.
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But some things have changed since then.
When I trained to be a registered nurse it was made clear to us that the appalling wages were partly compensated by the reasonable NHS Pension, but that’s since been scrapped by the Tories.
Financially speaking, I can’t claim to feel valued in the NHS.
Financially speaking, I can’t claim to feel valued in the NHS
You may wish to ask why this is: nurses have very many extended roles such as diagnosing, prescribing medication, reviewing and discharging patients. Minor surgery is commonly done by nurses. We manage our own clinics. Most nurses perform well above their pay grade. Yet pay has failed to keep pace with these changing and extended roles.
It’s the time away from my family whilst doing this unpaid overtime that affects us the most. On one occasion I called my daughter to explain that I was unable to take her to a promised trip to the cinema as I was unable to walk away from a very sick patient.
As a single-handed practitioner I could not hand over to a colleague as my junior medical and nursing colleagues needed my clinical expertise to manage the difficult situation, essentially ensuring that my patient had a ‘good’ death.
Pay has failed to keep pace with changing and extended roles
My daughter replied, in all innocence, “It’s OK Daddy, I’m used to it now”. She was trying to express understanding of the demands my role placed upon me.
But the truth hit home.
I work in a department where 90% of my colleagues work additional hours for the money. I do not believe that I am unique in separating the lack of value placed on the nursing role and by the Government from the amazing privilege it is to be a nurse.
As a result, I am never de-motivated. The NHS is a better place with me and my skills that nursing brings to the table. I am a fantastic nurse: I am professionally rewarded in what I do, so do not feel demotivated.
I simply feel unvalued.
I am a husband. I am a nurse. I am the main wage earner, and I have a proper job. I just need the proper wage to go with it.
Mark, Danielle and Andrew’s comments have been edited for clarity and length.
I found one of my old payslips from 2008 recently and when I looked at the numbers I just couldn’t believe it. I’m on the same money I was then.
We were first told that we would have a pay freeze and that happened for two years. Then they said we would have a pay cap at one percent.
So realistically we haven’t had a pay increase due to inflation.
I’m on the same money I was in 2008
We have had a reduction in pay through higher national insurance and higher pension increases. And our pay has gone down with the cost of living too.
Unfortunately I’m divorced and I left my ex-wife the house because my children needed a house.
For me starting again, I now rent and my rent keeps going up. I can’t afford to save and get that mortgage.
I have to watch every single penny. I try to save and as soon as I get a little bit something comes up - whether its a new washing machine or whatever, and you’re back to square one.
I’m finding it really difficult.
We should be having a decent pay rise in line with inflation
The Government know that people have taken on these roles because they have a passion for it and they live for it. The firefighters, the nurses, the teachers. But we have to live. We have to have enough to live on.
We’re all continually cut back, on resources, on pensions and on our wages.
We should be having a decent pay rise in line with inflation.
I could go into Aldi and I could get a job that pays something similar and I respect people that do that but I feel that the job I do is very important and I have to train and be fit and I have to represent the brigade.
The way it’s going, I might end up having to go to one of these places and taking something easier.
We’re told it’s austerity and we’ve got to do this. I think the government has been completely wrong in how they’ve dealt with it. It seems like the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
The first I knew I was losing my home was when my landlord turned up with an estate agent. She said she was selling the house.
It came out of the blue, but the first thought for me was ‘How the hell am I going to afford this’? Yet another thing to sort and pay for.
As a full-time nurse working in London, I never thought I’d struggle for money but there’s just no way I can raise another deposit.
As a full-time nurse working in London, I never thought I’d struggle for money
I qualified last year, and even since then I’ve noticed things have become more expensive. I now really have to watch what I buy. Inflation is rising and so food is becoming more expensive.
Rising costs mean that after putting into my pension and all the other deductions, I’ve not got enough to save up. It’s becoming worse and worse, and it’s really difficult.
Then there’s the situation at work.
There are a lot of problems in the NHS and the crisis has made it really, really hard. As junior nurses, we are often left responsible for things because there aren’t the staff there. The workload is just massive. It’s heartbreaking because you can’t look after people was you want to.
It feels to me like the NHS is on its last legs. This government has starved it. Our patients are hurting.
It feels to me like the NHS is on its last legs
They treat us with such contempt and Theresa May said to one of my colleagues there’s no magic money tree. I went to work that night and just thought ‘This is awful’.
My colleagues are struggling and many of them feel under appreciated. My friend was made nurse-in-charge four months after qualifying. We’ve all had enough. I know two people who have gone to a food bank. I know nurses who have applied for payday loans.
I don’t do anything expensive, I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t go on expensive holidays. I just don’t have any money to do anything nice in our lives anymore.
I feel like I’m paying to just survive.
I feel like I’m paying to just survive
When I began many years ago as a healthcare assistant I was paid really well and I just couldn’t wait to get to work.
I did an access course and had to work full-time and, as the bursary was there then, me, a working class person, was able to go to King’s College London.
But now I question why I got myself into it in the first place.