TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady (right) introduces public sector workers (left to right) William Sharpe, Natalie Bagnelle, Rob Sydney, Dave Waterman, Kathryn Lloyd-Williams and Jo O'Brien, during the TUC conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 11, 2017. See PA story INDUSTRY TUC. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Strike threat growing in union campaign against public sector pay cap

The Government is facing the growing threat of co-ordinated strikes by public sector workers unless it lifts its controversial cap on pay.

Unions are pressing for a 5% increase for millions of nurses, teachers, council staff, civil servants and other workers who have been subjected to a pay freeze or 1% cap for seven years.

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, made a passionate plea for an end to pay restraint during a debate at the TUC Congress in Brighton.

He had a heart transplant last year and praised the many NHS staff who looked after him.

The PCS is balloting all its members on industrial action, a move being followed by some members of the Prison Officers Association in special hospitals and control rooms.

Mr Serwotka said PCS members had suffered a 10% pay cut because of the cap, rising to 20% by 2020.

"There is a crisis in public sector pay and now is the time for action.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could have co-ordinated ballots in the run-up to the Budget."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "We've seen years of brutal austerity and vicious attacks on public services, overseen by an uncaring Government whose pay policies are causing real hardship.

"In the first six years of Conservative rule, public sector pay rose by just 4.4%, yet the cost of living soared by 22%, and to rub salt into those wounds, the pay of top bosses rose by a third in one year alone.

“Whilst the rich feather their nests, public service workers struggle to afford the basics. The Government call it prudence and restraint – I call it inhuman.

“We must commit to marching, demonstrating and lobbying – not just in Westminster, but in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh too.

“We need public events in every major city and town across the country to change the face of politics and hold Conservative MPs to account in their own back yards, and joint ballots for industrial action if all else fails.”

Gail Cartmail of Unite said the cap on public sector pay was “contaminating” many private firms who have followed suit.

The NASUWT teachers union said the average pay award for teachers last year was 0.6%.

A national rally will be held in Westminster in October and the TUC will seek a meeting with the Chancellor.

Ministers are expected to accept recommendations for higher pay rises for police and prison officers, but unions warned against “cherry picking” of workers.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said: “The next Labour government will lift the public sector pay cap for all public sector workers and we are demanding nothing less than that from this shambolic Government.

“The crisis in our public services is a crisis made in Downing Street. The pay review bodies have been operating under the constraint of a Tory 1% cap for seven years.

“The pay cap must now be lifted across the whole public sector rather than by playing one group of workers off against another.”

Andrew Matthews/PA Wire