Public sector workers and members of Unison gather outside the Houses of Parliament in central London back in 2014

Two million public sector workers face a real terms pay cut today as ministers try to get a grip on inflation which unions have already warned will cause strike action and resignations. 

Whitehall sources said that pay review bodies covering doctors, nurses, soldiers, the police and a string of other professions will recommend settlements of three to five per cent.

But this is far shorter than the 16% that nurses are demanding, the Royal College of Nursing said, and less than the above inflation rise that largest trade union in the UK, UNISON, has also said its workers want. 

Today, Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor, will argue today to stop pay increases to stop pushing up demand further, spiking a bigger burden on the cost-of-living. 

The proposed settlements are far below the forecast level of inflation, which is expected to peak at 11 per cent this autumn.

The plans put ministers on a collision course with the big public sector unions, which have warned of an autumn of industrial action.

Public sector workers and members of Unison gather outside the Houses of Parliament in central London back in 2014 

Only newly qualified teachers are expected to get a more significant rise as part of Tory manifesto plans to raise starting salaries to £30,000 by the time of the next election.

A Whitehall source acknowledged the pay settlements would be tough for many, but said it was essential the Government gets inflation under control.

‘The pay review bodies are independent, but they have to consider what is affordable,’ the source said.

‘You will see most of the settlements come in at around the range of three to five per cent. It is going to be tough for people. But we have to manage things responsibly, and the alternative – letting inflation get out of control – is even more damaging to people’s incomes in the long term.’

The plans put ministers on a collision course with the big public sector unions, which have warned of an autumn of industrial action

Today’s pay reviews will cover doctors and dentists, nurses, teachers, prison officers, members of the armed forces, judges and senior civil servants. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor, will argue today for pay restraint, the Telegraph has said. 

The newspaper said Mr Zahawi will say: ‘That means delivering sound public finances to avoid pushing up demand still further, providing help for households as they deal with the worst price rises in over a generation.

‘And, where we can, easing the supply constraints that are the underlying cause of high inflation. The country should feel confident that we can, and we will, get inflation back under control’.

But Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, which is seeking a 16 per cent rise, said nurses would ‘consider industrial action if ministers do not move’, according to the Daily Mail. 

She said: ‘There are tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs and unfair treatment will push more out of the profession.’

Separately, a three-day strike due to start tomorrow by Royal Mail managers belonging to the Unite union has been called off. The union’s 2,400 Royal Mail members accepted proposals on jobs, pay and conditions in a ballot by almost two to one. However, Unite said that the dispute was not over.

Whitehall sources said that pay review bodies covering doctors, nurses, soldiers, the police and a string of other professions will recommend settlements of three to five per cent

The UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy has also hinted this could mean staff walking out of their jobs.

UNISON head of health and chair of the NHS group of unions Sara Gorton said: ‘Health workers struggling to pay bills have been waiting months for the increase they should have received back in the spring.

‘The public clearly supports an above-inflation pay rise across the NHS. People say they would also be behind NHS staff should they opt for strike action if a decent increase isn’t forthcoming. Ministers must act now rather than stumble into a dispute no-one wants to see.

‘The government must find the money needed or risk worsening the current staffing crisis and ​lengthening test and treatment waits for patients.’

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy assistant director and secretary of the NHS group of unions Elaine Sparkes said: ‘The NHS has a workforce crisis, and it is unthinkable that the government could be considering making this worse through a pay rise that falls far below inflation.

‘That would cause further staff to leave and place ever-greater strain on those who remain, while increasing waiting times for patients.

‘The government must step up with an above-inflation pay rise that helps recruit, and most importantly retain, the workforce patients desperately need.’

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By Jon Doe