Millions of public sector workers have been warned that the Government will show “discipline” over their pay rises amid further signs of union unrest at Rishi Sunak’s approach.

Teachers from the NASUWT union in England plan to stage continuous action short of strike action starting in September, with a warning that the expected 6.5% rise in wages recommended by their pay review body is the minimum that should be offered.

Decisions on public sector pay awards are expected within days, with no guarantee the Government will accept the recommendations of expert pay review bodies and the prospect that any increases in wages may have to come from  budget cuts.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told MPs the Government would show discipline on spending and public sector pay (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told MPs that efforts to get inflation down would require “discipline on spending (and) on public sector pay”.

The Prime Minister has made halving inflation to around 5.3% this year one of his policy priorities and the Government will resist any increases which could risk making it harder to meet that goal.

Reports have suggested the independent review bodies have recommended that teachers should receive a 6.5% pay rise for 2023-24, while police officers, prison officers and junior doctors should all get 6% or more, at a potential cost in excess of £5 billion.

Mr Sunak, speaking at the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, said: “We will be guided by a couple of principles: the first is fairness, fairness for our public sector workers because we want to make sure that they are rewarded fairly for their hard work, but also fairness for taxpayers who ultimately have to foot the bill for pay rises.

“And the other thing we will be guided by is responsibility: I think everyone knows the economic context we are in and we need to make sure that Government decisions, particularly when it comes to not borrowing more, are made responsibly so that we don’t fuel inflation, make it worse or last for longer.”

With the Government refusing to borrow more and no prospect of tax hikes to raise the money for wage increases, departmental budgets could have to be raided to fund pay rises, potentially leading to cuts to services.

Decisions by Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on the pay awards are expected to be announced before MPs leave Westminster for their summer break on July 20.

Downing Street said that ministers would look at recommendations for the 2023-24 settlements “in the round” and had not made a “final decision”.

Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation peaked at 11.1% growth last year, and was last reported at 8.7% for May.

UK strikes in July
(PA Graphics)

Anger over below-inflation pay rises has already fuelled a series of industrial disputes within public services.

The NASUWT has now announced action short of strikes, although its members in England could still walk out in the autumn term in a row over pay, workload and working time.

General secretary Patrick Roach said: “The Government must stop playing politics, publish the report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) and put an end to the damaging speculation they have allowed to develop over recent weeks.

“The STRB’s recommendation of a 6.5% pay award for teachers and headteachers, which has been widely reported, is the minimum to which our members are entitled.

“However, NASUWT members are clear that teachers deserve better than just another real-terms pay cut.”

Shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nandy refused to say whether a Labour administration would accept the pay review body recommendations in full.

The shadow housing secretary told LBC: “We haven’t seen them all and we would obviously look at them carefully. In the end it is for governments to decide, though.

“We want a much greater focus on retention and recruitment in the pay review body recommendations, because we think that is becoming the major problem and it isn’t just a question of wages for public sector workers, there’s also the problem of workload, which is why we’re losing a lot of people from professions like teaching.”