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Strikes are ‘not going to go away’ without pay deal, TUC chief warns Sunak

Rishi Sunak has been warned to expect further waves of strike action as industrial disputes “won’t magically disappear” without improved pay offers for public sector workers.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak suggested a “Cabinet full of millionaires” might not fully understand the squeeze on living standards faced by ordinary workers.

As up to 500,000 workers took part in the biggest strike in a decade, Mr Nowak told the PA news agency: “This is not going to go away.”

Speaking in Westminster, he said: “There isn’t a single public sector worker who is taking industrial action today that wants to be on strike.

Paul Nowak comments
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak urged the Government to get round the table and help resolve the disputes (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“They are losing pay, they are not being able to deliver the services they are proud to deliver to the public.

“But the responsibility for these strikes lies firmly with the Government. It’s been months now and still the Government hasn’t sat down and seriously talked about a real pay rise for our public sector workers.

“It really is now the responsibility of Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt to get round the table and make sure the resources are available to fund decent pay in our public services.”

The lack of progress on pay, coupled with legislation aimed at curbing the impact of strikes on public services, has severely strained relations between ministers and workers.

Mr Nowak said: “I would hope that they are not actively seeking a confrontation with unions but what I would say is they are trying to push through what is a particularly spiteful piece of legislation.”

He said it is “very easy for a Cabinet full of millionaires to not really experience what’s happening in our public services and the real pressures on our public service workers”, and he suggested industrial action would continue until a decent pay offer was on the table.

“I don’t think our members can afford another real terms pay cut,” he said. “So the message to the Government is that this is not going to go away, these problems won’t magically disappear.

“The way to resolve these strikes, which is good for workers, which is good for public services and good for the country as a whole, is for the Government to come to the table, put more resource on the table, and deliver a real pay rise for public sector workers.”

Mr Nowak said “politics is all about choices” and “at the moment, the Government is making the wrong political choices”.

He suggested targeting the excess profits of oil and gas giants more heavily and increasing capital gains tax to raise money to fund pay rises.