Finance Secretary Simon Clarke said the strike was “likely” to continue but insisted ministers would not come to a table to settle the dispute over pay and redundancies
Workers should not expect inflation-dampening wage increases, a finance minister has warned, as unions prepare for the biggest rail strike in a generation.
Simon Clarke claimed the offer of double-digit wage increases would “herald a repeat of the 1970s” and said it was not “sustainable” to raise wages in line with rising inflation.
The warning of a real pay cut for workers comes as Brits face Network Rail strikes and 13 train operators on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and tomorrow on the London Underground in a week of travel chaos.
And teachers and nurses could be the next to stage strikes amid growing fears about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Clarke said the rail strike would “probably” continue but ministers would not come to a table to settle the dispute over pay and redundancies.
Asked whether the government should be involved in the talks, Mr Clarke told the Today programme: “Ultimately it will only confuse things if we add a third party to these negotiations.
“The railway companies and Network Rail are working to put in place a sensible reform program and a sensible and fair collective bargaining agreement with the unions.”
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said public sector wages would not rise in line with inflation, which is expected to rise to 11% in the autumn.
The Bank of England made that forecast last week when it hiked interest rates to 1.25% – the fifth straight hike.
“In the current inflation landscape of 9% bordering on 10%, it is not a sustainable expectation that inflation can be adjusted in salary offers,” Mr Clarke said.
“It’s not something that frankly will be seen in both the private and public sectors.
“We can’t get into a world where we’re chasing inflation expectations like that because that’s the surest way I can think of to bake a repeat of the 1970s that this administration is dying to prevent.”
The top Tory has been pressured over why No10 had said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey’s pleading earlier this year was not the government’s position.
He replied, “What a spokesman said is for them. I realize that what we are really trying to do is manage the inflationary woes that this economy and the entire West are facing.”
When asked if public sector workers shouldn’t expect a pay rise in line with inflation, he said: “Right.”
He apologized for the “misery” the rail strike would inflict on commuters and denied that the government was actively looking for a fight with the unions.
“We absolutely do not want them to continue. I know this will leave millions of people in misery and I am deeply sorry for that,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“No one is suggesting that some sort of pay freeze is needed here, we all want to see a decent pay rise.
“In connection with this, we need to reform some of the practices that make our railway a very unsustainable entity at the moment.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/workers-wont-inflation-busting-pay-27277828 Workers will not receive an anti-inflationary pay rise as the biggest rail strike in decades looms