Speaking on Sunday, the shadow secretary of state, Lisa Nandy, criticised the government for not recommending pay for NHS workers rise by more than 1 per cent .
The senior Labour politician told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: "The government, to be clear, is not planning a pay rise ... That is a real-terms pay cut because it doesn’t keep up with inflation and for nurses to be offered a pay cut is just reprehensible in our view.”
Ms Nandy added that the government’s long-term plan for the NHS originally budgeted a 2.1 per cent pay rise.
“That is what nurses were promised and last year they legislated for that in order to give nurses a cast-iron guarantee that after years of seeing their real-terms pay fall, that the government would finally reverse that decision and start to see their pay increase,” she said.
“We think they ought to go into these negotiations at a bare minimum of honouring that promise of a 2.1 per cent [increase] and then consider what more they can offer to our NHS staff who have done so much to put their families and themselves at risk every day going into work – some of them have died."
Addressing the possibility of strike action, Ms Nandy said: “Nurses in my constituency who I met last week are not asking me for a strike, they weren’t promised a strike. They were promised a pay rise, and that is what I’m determined they’re going to get.”
Elsewhere, Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said on Sunday: “It was absolutely disgusting that the Tory government unveiled the budget, which is putting tax up for hard-working families and cutting pay for nurses. And Rishi Sunak sneaked it out the day after because he was too cowardly to announce it on the day.”
He said he would support nurses if they choose to strike. Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he said: "I know nurses. They don’t want to go on strike. And I’ll always champion nurses and I’ll always stand by nurses, but they don’t want to go on strike.
"I will always support our nurses, I will always stand by nurses and I will always support the rights of staff to take industrial action … but we don’t want to get to that place.”
He urged the government “to drop this 1 per cent pay rise”, which he said was a pay cut once inflation was factored in.
“You have a process. You look at retention issues, you look at recruitment issues, you look at their pay and then you give it to the independent pay review body who will negotiate with the different trade unions,” Mr Ashworth added. "And then we will honour what that pay review body recommends.”
Both Ms Nandy and Mr Ashworth would not say exactly how much of a pay rise Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would offer if he was in Downing Street.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing are setting up an emergency strike fund of £35m over the “derisory” pay rise proposed by the government, laying the groundwork for possible industrial action.
The decision as to how much of a salary raise NHS staff will receive is to be finalised in May after the NHS pay review body has assessed the Department of Health and Social Care’s submitted proposal.
The current 1 per cent rise will apply to everyone in the NHS, from junior doctors to GPs and dentists.