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The Cabinet today eased the purse strings on public sector pay after seven agonising years of caps and freezes.
Police and prison officers will be among the first to get rises above the current ceiling of one per cent.
Nurses, teachers, Armed Forces personnel and others are expected to follow by getting slightly bigger rises in future, though not as much as their unions are demanding.
Across the board rises are not expected as they would cost the Treasury £6 billion. Instead, some workers may be prioritised.
The decision was taken as political pressure to soften the era of austerity came to a head and workers at Sellafield voted to strike over pay. At the Trades Union Congress, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an end to the cap in his keynote speech, while militant unions threatened a wave of co-ordinated strikes.
However the key factor was a protest by senior Conservative MPs who blamed the June 8 election disaster partly on disenchantment with austerity.
Details of likely pay awards will only be clear when the independent pay review bodies make a series of recommendations. The Government will write to the groups in turn, giving them fresh instructions, starting with the police and prisons sector which is the final review of the 2017/18 year.
Union studies published this morning said workers would lose thousands in real terms this year, with midwives losing £3,288, teachers more than £3,000, firefighters almost £2,800, and nurses £2,650.
The RMT union said that even Royal Fleet Auxiliary workers helping the recovery effort in the Caribbean were being “hammered” by the cap.
The news came as Labour’s justice spokesman today refused to address threats of illegal strike action against the pay cap.
Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, ducked questions on whether he would back a potential strike, even if fewer than half of union members vote in a ballot.
Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, has said a co-ordinated strike action is “very much on the cards”.
Mr Burgon said the scenario was “hypothetical” and avoided answering questions on the issue five times during a morning BBC radio interview.
Asked if he backed the threat of strike action, he said: “We should be talking about the reality faced by … nurses, care assistants, firefighters, and all too often they get written out of this discussion. That is who this is about.”
Conservative MP Chris Philp said: “For a man who aspires to lead the UK’s justice department, Richard Burgon’s flagrant disregard for the law of the land is deeply troubling but sadly unsurprising.”
Mr Burgon also ducked questions about Mr McCluskey’s call for a second deputy Labour leader.
This is widely seen as an attempt to install a Left-wing counterweight to deputy Tom Watson. Asked by Today show presenter John Humphrys to give a one-word answer on whether there should be another deputy, Mr Burgon said the party was proud of its level of female representation.
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