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Cabinet Minister Says Pay Rises Matching Inflation Or Higher "Unaffordable" For Public Sector

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said that pay rises that match or beat inflation are "unaffordable" for the public sector

3 min read

Pay rises that match or are higher than inflation are “unaffordable” for the public sector, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said, as multiple sectors have announced strike action before Christmas.

The Cabinet minister said he wanted to be “straight with people” about what is available from the public purse, but a Labour front bencher has said the government should be “moving heaven and earth” to prevent more industrial action. 

Nurses, railway workers and postal workers are among the staff due to walk out in the coming days and weeks in disputes over pay and conditions. 

Harper told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme this morning that “the public purse won’t afford inflation-busting pay rises for everybody in the public sector.” 

“I think we want to make sure people have pay rises, but they’ve got to be pay rises that are affordable for the public sector and in the wider economic context” 

Pushed further,  Harper added: “I think inflation-matching or inflation-busting pay rises are unaffordable. 

“I think we want to try and give all the workers in the public sector who work very hard decent pay rises, but they can’t be inflation busting pay rises because there isn’t the money to pay for those.”

He added: “There is just some honesty in being straight with people about the economic context the country faces.” 

Earlier this week, Harper said there is a “deal to be done” after he met with the head of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Mick Lynch. 

The RMT have announced further strike action on 13-14 and 16-17 December, and 3-4 and 6-7 January, following earlier action in recent months. 

Announcing the dates earlier this week, Lynch said: “Our message to the public is we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the government and railway employers during this latest phase of action.” 

Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said that the Conservatives’ record and “44 days in which Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy” are what has made inflation-busting pay rises unaffordable.  

“What he should be doing is moving heaven and earth to try to avert strikes coming up this winter.

“It's been a really tough year for a lot of people and nobody wants to see strikes, least of all the people who are having to resort to strike action.” 

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