The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on public sector pay and Ukraine.
Public sector pay
Asked about the public sector pay rise, the PMS directed the assembled press to the Prime Minister’s words that morning: that NHS staff deserved their pay increase. The PMS said that difficult decisions had been made to protect the NHS budget, invest in frontline services and deliver the long term economic plan. He said that such decisions meant there were now 4,500 more nurses than there were in 2010, and that everyone in the NHS would get at least a 1%, with a 3% average for those on progression pay.
In response to comparisons between recent changes to the minimum wage and public sector pay policy, the PMS said that the national minimum wage applied across both the public and private sector. He said that at the start of Parliament public sector pay was frozen for 2 years, while this announcement represented a 1% rise.
Asked about the prospect of strike action, the PMS said that people across the country would recognise that difficult decisions had to be taken. He said that the Prime Minister would oppose action which disrupted services for the public, which was why government would urge unions to talk and not to strike.
Asked if progression pay would be phased out in the public sector, the PMS said that the government wanted public sector employers to be able to reward performance rather than time in service, with civil service progression pay set to be phased out by 2015 to 2016.
In response to the suggestion that public sector workers should expect similar pay agreements in coming years, the PMS pointed to the government’s plans to deal with the deficit by 2017 and indicated that difficult decisions were likely to continue.
Asked whether he expected a deal to be reached on Ukraine, the PMS said that it was right for the UK to continue engagement with the Russian government and to reiterate the importance of de-escalation.