Boris Johnson will do away with public sector pay freezes, his ally the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said.
His leadership rival, Jeremy Hunt, angered many in the NHS when he imposed new contracts on junior doctors in 2016 and oversaw the slowest period of investment in the NHS since its foundation.
Johnson’s supporters have moved to capitalise on the issue, with Hancock telling the Times that public sector workers would get a “fair” pay rise under Johnson.
Hancock said: “Now that there’s money available we need to show the public sector some love – they do a brilliant job for the country. People in the public sector need to be properly rewarded for the brilliant job they do.
“Higher pay, not higher taxes, means a pay rise for everyone, including in the public sector.”
A two-year public sector pay freeze was introduced under David Cameron before rises were capped at 1% until 2017 under austerity measures.
Hancock added he had just given junior doctors an 8% pay rise over several years and claimed this showed “the days of pay freezes are over”.
However, a spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing, which represents over 300,000 nursing staff in England, said warm words would not help pay the bills of workers whose pay still lagged behind levels a decade ago.
He said: “Warm words about public sector workers won’t get any new prime minister very far.
“The wages of too many still lag behind where they were 10 years ago in real terms.
“Until their pay matches the education and skills required, the government will struggle to fill the 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England.”