Rishi Sunak has defended the proposed 1% pay rise offered to NHS staff is "proportionate, fair and reasonable", despite critics saying the wage increase amounts to a real-terms pay cut when inflation is considered.
The chancellor said the proposed pay rise, which the government has insisted is all it can afford, saying NHS staff are among the only public sector workers who will be getting a pay rise next year, with most others subject to a pay freeze.
Giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee, Mr Sunak said: "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."
At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned how Boris Johnson could justify offering NHS a pay rise of just 1%, after giving his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings a 40% pay rise, equivalent to at least £40,000, last year.
The government is facing a furious backlash from nurses, doctors, health care unions, politicians and the public for proposing the 1% pay rise.
The public is being urged to stand on their doorsteps on Thursday evening to sarcastically slow handclap the government over its controversial proposal for a 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
The suggested action, backed by health unions and the TUC, is the latest step in a campaign aimed at achieving an increased pay increase for health workers.
The UK's largest nursing union the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it is preparing for strike action in protest at the pay rise.
It has set up a £35 million industrial action fund to support workers through a loss of earnings, should its members decide to strike.
The Unite union also said it would not rule out asking members about potential strike action.
Labour's Sir Keir Starmer argued that NHS workers should get a "fair" pay rise, but refused to back a 12.% increase proposed by the Royal College of Nurses.
Launching his campaign for May's elections, the Labour leader targeted the Government's widely criticised recommendation of a 1% raise for England's health workers.
He said on Friday that "a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses", but did not go as far as some supporters wanted in specifying the raise they deserve during the pandemic.
Asked at the virtual launch, Sir Keir said the increase should be "above inflation, a real rise".
"I think the starting point should be the 2.1% that was promised and was, of course, budgeted for," he added.
Sir Keir did not directly answer questions about his support for potential strikes by nurses, saying it is in the hands of Boris Johnson to prevent industrial action.
"I support them in their entitlement to a fair wage rise after what they've been through. They don't want to go on strike, it's the Prime Minister that's causing this dispute and it's the Prime Minister that can sort it out," Sir Keir said.
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