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On Thursday, Rishi Sunak accepted in full recommendations from independent pay review bodies to give key public sector workers pay rises of around 6.5%, calling on unions to call off the strikes now .
The Prime Minister agreed to the prices for 2023-24 after talks with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt when he was reassured they could be funded without increased government borrowing which could have fueled inflation.
“Today’s offer is final,” Sunak told a Downing Street news conference. “There will be no more talks about wages. No amount of strikes will change this decision.
Sunak received an immediate boost when four education unions backed the government’s proposed 6.5% pay rise for teachers, saying they would recommend the deal to members and call off the strikes.
According to recommendations from review bodies accepted by ministers, police officers will receive a pay rise of 7% in 2023-24, teachers 6.5%, senior NHS staff 6%, junior doctors 6% plus a one-time payment, and armed forces personnel 5 percent plus one-time payment.
More than a million NHS staff, including nurses and paramedics, have already been offered a 5% pay rise by the government for 2023-24, along with a one-off payment for the year last.
The Prime Minister was fully aware of the political risks of stoking public sector workers’ anger over wages – potentially aggravating a wave of strikes – if he rejected the review bodies’ recommendations.
In a joint statement with Sunak, teachers’ unions NEU, NASUWT, NAHT and ASCL said they would recommend the government’s wage offer to members. “This agreement will allow teachers and school leaders to call off the strike and resume normal relations with the government,” they said.
He said wage offers could be funded without hitting frontline services and urged all public sector workers – including striking junior doctors – to call off their strikes now.
In a direct challenge to the British Medical Association to call off young doctors’ strikes in England, Sunak said: ‘How can it be right to pursue disruptive industrial action, not least because these strikes are resulting in the cancellation of dozens of thousands of appointments – every single day.”
The Prime Minister is grappling with the biggest series of UK public sector strikes in decades – with workers, teachers and NHS officials all demanding higher wages amid the cost of living crisis .
Young doctors who are members of the BMA began an unprecedented five-day strike on Thursday. Teachers’ unions have held strike votes that could lead to widespread school closures in the fall.
Sunak said departments in Whitehall will have to find efficiencies and reprioritize spending to help cover pay rises.
This reflects the fact that the salary increases are higher than the 3.5 percent originally proposed by the government.
But Sunak also announced a plan to raise an additional £1billion by increasing visa fees and an NHS surcharge for legal migrants coming to Britain.
Public sector pay may now begin to follow rising prices. Consensus Economics, which averages major forecasters, expects consumer price inflation to average 7.3% in 2023 and 3.2% in 2024.
Sunak wants to halve inflation to around 5% by the end of this year. It is currently at 8.7%.