Good payoff on table Treasury minister hints at new plan to avoid summer of discontent

Clark says 'Good payoff on the table for public sector workforces'

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Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke reacted to rail strikes planned for this week but said it is too early to forecast a “summer of discontent” as he warned of new proposals coming in the coming weeks to appease workers. He explained awards above the current inflation levels could lead to a “really difficult place” for the country in terms of bringing down inflation and tackling the cost of living crisis. He also added the government will “continue to support” the negotiations between rail companies and unions but it will not directly intervene in the talks.

Mr Clarke told Sky News: “From what I understand, those rewards are coming.

“Those rewards are coming in at a sensible level, which is great.

“It does mean that there will be a good payoff on the table for the public sector workforces.

“It is important that we wait and see what those awards are.

“Then obviously, it will be for individual workforces and the trade unions to respond.

“I do think people have to recognise if we’re going to forestall the evil of inflation, inflation destroys savings.

“It destroys growth.

“It damages any economy where it gets an endemic grip.

“When we are going to have to show collective society-wide responsibility and I think that’s the message which people watching this programme will understand.

“We have to see what happens with the individual unions.

“What I’d emphasise is there is a pay review body process that’s in place across Government, that’s independent government.

“There are independent groups of experts who recommend pay awards.

“It’s then for individual departments to respond to those for the workforces is concerned.

“Those bodies are reporting throughout the course of June and then the Government department will set up their response in due course.”

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He added: “Public sector pay discipline really matters here.

“We have an inflation problem in this country as indeed is common across the western world after the pandemic.

“If we don’t want that problem to either intensify or prolong itself, then we need to be sensible around pay awards.

“If we give awards above inflation in this landscape, then we are in a really difficult place in terms of bringing down inflation, which in turn obviously is driving the cost of living.”

Referring to the government and its role in the negotiations, he stressed: “The government doesn’t sit as part of those talks for a very good reason.

We don’t intervene in the specific process between an employer and the unions representing employees, but we are there to provide the support and the enabling framework for those talks to succeed. Ultimately, we don’t control all the levers that need to be held here”.

The strikes, the biggest in decades, will take place on Tuesday 21, Thursday 23 and Saturday 25 June in a dispute over pay and redundancies.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said thousands of jobs were being cut across the rail networks and added: “It has to be restated that the source of these disputes is the decision by the Tory government to cut £4bn of funding from our transport systems – £2bn from National Rail and £2bn from Transport for London”.

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