Pressure is set to pile on the government today, as Labour seeks votes from the DUP for its argument that the public sector pay cap should be lifted across the board.
Labour is using its first opposition day since January to bring a vote on scrapping the public sector pay cap across the board - and expects to receive support from the government's informal coalition partner, as well as a handful of sympathetic Tories.
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said: “We are calling for those Tory MPs and DUP MPs who have spoken out against the pay cap to vote with us to end it. DUP MPs signed the early day motion [on the matter] earlier this year so I’m sure their constituents would expect them to vote for the same motion now it is to be debated on the floor of the house.
“The pay cap is unfair, causes hardship and is helping contribute to the staffing crisis now facing the NHS. So far we’ve had warm words and hand wringing from some Conservative MPs, now it’s time to send the clearest possible message that the pay cap must be scrapped and vote for Labour’s motion tomorrow."
The DUP did not respond to requests for a comment.
Downing Street had clearly hoped to take the sting out of Labour's tail by yesterday announcing its plans to lift the pay cap for police and prison officers, which will be funded from existing budgets. A government spokesman indicated that this would pave the way for workers in other sectors to see the same treatment, based on future recommendations from their respective pay review bodies.
He stressed the need for "flexibility" but said ministers were mindful of the need to address "recruitment and retention" issues, balanced with "pay discipline".
However at two and 1.7 per cent respectively - below the rate of inflation and well below the numbers unions were seeking - the offers fell flat, with union bosses deriding them as "pathetic" and "a pile of crap".
Speaking at the annual Trade Union Congress, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn slammed the government's intervention as "divide and rule" tactics.
"We must be united in breaking the pay cap for all workers," he added. "The Labour Party totally rejects the Tories' attempt at divide and rule, to play one sector off against another. A Labour government will end the public sector pay cap and give all workers the pay rise they deserve and so desperately need."
The government is also facing down threats from the UK's biggest union of coordinated industrial action, with Len McCluskey saying he would be willing to hold illegal strikes over the pay cap issue.
“If the government has pushed us outside the law, they will have to stand the consequences,” McCluskey told the BBC.
Action from public sector workers was “very likely and very much on the cards”, he added.