- Reuters/Toby Melville
- The government is expected to accept pay increases for police and prison officers. This move signals that ministers are prepared to lift the public sector pay cap. Labour has put pressure on the government to lift the cap across the board.
LONDON – The public sector pay cap is set to be lifted this week for police and prison officers, in a move that signals that Prime Minister Theresa May and her government have come round to softening their austerity policies.
Conservative ministers are expected to accept the recommendations of pay review bodies to raise the salaries of police and prison officers, the Guardian today reports. Pay rises for public sector workers have been capped at 1% since 2011.
If reports are correct, this could be used as a precedent for other public sector workers such as nurses and teachers to see their pay rise in real-terms.
Pay review boards are expected to report to the government on other public sector jobs in the Autumn. May told MPs at PMQs last week that the government “absolutely values” the work of those in public sector jobs.
Labour’s shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said she hoped reports of the pay rise were a sign that the Conservative government had decided to “finally listen” to the opposition.
“Ministers have spent seven years asking the police to do ever more while slashing their pay year after year, leading to rock bottom morale and skyrocketing resignations,” Haigh told the Guardian.
“We hope that ministers will finally listen to us and agree a fully funded and fair pay settlement for police officers this week but they must not simply put the financial burden on already over stretched police budgets.”
In July the cabinet was divided over the issue, as some ministers led by Chancellor Philip Hammond backed continuing austerity, while others including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wanted to scrap the pay freeze.
Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB union said that pay should rise for those not covered by pay review bodies as well, telling the Financial Times: “The prime minister will not be able to get away with a sleight of hand on this one – we’re watching very closely.”
On Wednesday Labour will hold an opposition day debate on public sector pay in an attempt to increase the pressure on the government to change its course.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “We keep getting briefings in newspapers and suggestions that the government is sympathetic and wants to do something, and ‘oh, it’s terrible and we accept that but let’s see where we get to’.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that raising pay in line with inflation would cost the government £6 to £7 billion more than continuing with the current austerity policy.
At the TUC’s annual conference in Brighton on Sunday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pledged Labour’s support for strikes and said the party’s figures would join workers on picket lines if they took action.
McDonnell said: “Let me make it absolutely clear. You have the democratic right to ballot for industrial action and if as a result of those ballots you support industrial action – I tell you this on every case we have seen so far it has been just – and therefore yes, we’ll be in parliament supporting you and we’ll be on the picket line supporting you as well.”