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ref date:2 Feb 1999 (ECON)
Pay rises get Labour into deep trouble

Nurses working in the NHS were given small pay rises, not commensurate with the service they provide everyone in Scotland and England. The rise will be almost eaten away by inflation and Labours recent tax increases. However, these public sector workers have fueled the desire of millions of others to get something, anything out of supposedly caring Nu Labour.

Nurses, doctors, civil servants, the armed forces and MPs received average rises of 4.1 per cent in a "fair and affordable" package costing 1,463 million.

The rise, affecting 1.25 million public sector workers, comes into force from 1 April.

Now however, up to two million other public sector workers, including hospital support staff, are now likely to demand similar rises.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) will hold a meeting of public sector unions within the next few weeks to co-ordinate pay bargaining strategy. About 250,000 NHS ancillary staff want rises of 10 per cent or 1,000 a year, whichever is greater. One union leader said: "I look forward to seeing these rises reflected in a decent settlement for NHS support staff."

Kay Ullrich, the SNP's health spokeswoman, said: "They are making an attempt to address recruitment, but 4.7 per cent will do little to tackle the problem of retaining nurses, who know they can walk out tomorrow and get better-paid jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, for example."