It comes amid a growing backlash over the pay offer – which amounts to just £3.50 a week – which health bosses and union chiefs have branded “pitiful”. Both Boris Johnson and Cabinet Ministers have hinted that the figure isn’t set in stone but unions have threatened to ballot their NHS members over strike action if the offer isn’t improved. But giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee, Mr Sunak said the offer was part of a “targeted approach” to public-sector pay.
“For a matter of fairness and also to protect people’s jobs in the public sector we set out a targeted approach to public-sector pay which we thought was proportionate, fair and reasonable,” he said.
“What that actually did was ensure those in the NHS would actually receive a pay rise next year. In other parts of the public sector that will not be the case next year.
“We did also protect those on the lowest incomes, so that if you earn less than the median salary of around £25,000 – just under – you receive an increase of at least £250 next year.
“So that is a targeted approach to public-sector pay.”
Earlier this week Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he wants to see NHS staff “recognised in a way that’s appropriate” as pressure mounts on the Government to increase its proposal.
While the head of the NHS in England Sir Simon Stevens admitted they were in line for an increase of 2.1 percent before the pandemic struck.
Mr Sunak also told the Committee that he was kept up at night with concerns over rising unemployment.
He told MPs he was also concerned about the impact a rise in interest rates would have on the public finances, given the debt mountain built up during the pandemic.
“Obviously the exact path of the labour market is one that I’m constantly kept up at night by – sadly three-quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs and more are forecast to do so,” he said.
Mr Sunak added that the forecast for unemployment to peak at 6.5 percent was lower than previously expected.
“Fundamentally that’s a large number of people who are going to lose their jobs over the course of this pandemic and minimising the number of those unemployed and finding them new opportunities as quickly as possible is a thing that keeps me up at night”.