Public sector workers should be given pay rises in the same way that MPs do, ministers have been told.
Labour has demanded the government lift its 1% cap on wages and backbencher Diana Johnson today said the government should automatically accept the recommendation of public sector pay review bodies.
The call came as Chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss was asked to tell Philip Hammond to apologise for reportedly claiming workers in the public sector were “overpaid”.
Speaking during Treasury questions in the Commons, Johnson told Truss it was wrong that independent recommendations of pay rises for workers were “vetoed” by ministers.
“We all agree that MPs’ pay recommendations are decided independently and go through automatically,” she said. “However, with other public sector pay review bodies they do take into account Treasury submissions but then they find their recommendations are vetoed by ministers.
“So if it’s good enough for Members of Parliament, why is it not good enough for nurses, the armed forces, firefighters and teachers?”
Truss insisted the Treasury “take notice” of what pay review bodies suggested. “We’ve just approved the teachers’ pay review body, we’ve just approved the nurses’ pay review body,” she said.
John McDonnell used the session to demand Hammond chancellor “do the right thing and apologise” for having reportedly told Cabinet that some workers were “overpaid”.
“When it comes to commenting on wages doesn’t the chief secretary agree that it ill becomes a multi-millionaire earning £145,000 a year, admittedly in temporary job, and living in two grace and favor properties at the tax payers expense to attack public sector workers?” he said.
But Truss, who was answering questions with Hammond by her side, defended the government’s record and told the shadow channcellor to “get your facts right”.
“Last year teachers’ pay went up by 3.3%, more than half of nurses and other NHS workers saw a pay rise of over 3%, the armed services saw a pay rise of 2.4%,” she said.
The Commons row came as Theresa May told her ministers to show “unity” around the Cabinet and demanded keep details of their discussions private after a series of leaks against Hammond.
May told Cabinet that the briefings and counter-briefings seen over the weekend were “a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously”, said the PM’s spokesman.