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DUP branded 'hypocritical' over Tory public sector pay cap

The DUP's Nigel Dodds, Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson with British prime minister Theresa May, Gavin Williamson and Damian Green inside 10 Downing Street, London

THE DUP has been branded "grossly hypocritical" for supporting the Tory government's public sector pay cap while at the same time backing calls to remove it.

The party voted with the Conservatives last month against efforts at Westminster to remove the wages cap.

But it's emerged that two DUP MPs are now supporting a motion calling for an end to the pay cap for health workers.

Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Shannon have both signed the motion tabled by Labour's Conor McGinn.

It calls on the British government to "end the public sector pay cap in the NHS and give NHS workers a fair pay rise".

Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson signed it on July 11, while Strangford representative Mr Shannon gave his support on July 6.

Just weeks earlier, the Tory government was saved from a House of Commons defeat on the pay cap issue because of DUP support.

All 10 DUP MPs joined the Conservatives in voting against a proposed Queen's speech amendment that called on the British government to "end the public sector pay cap". It was defeated by 323 votes to 309.

The DUP last month agreed to support Theresa May's minority government in a deal involving £1bn of extra public spending in Northern Ireland.

The 'confidence and supply' arrangement will see the DUP vote with the British government on matters such as the Queen's speech and the budget.

Public sector pay rises, which are mainly set by independent pay review bodies, have effectively been capped at one per cent each year since 2013.

The Conservatives have come under pressure over the policy since the Westminster election, with some ministers speaking out against the cap.

SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney branded the DUP "grossly hypocritical" over the issue.

"As a direct result of the DUP decision to keep the pay cap in place, emergency service staff here will not receive wage increases in line with the cost of living. Firefighters who put their lives at risk last week to protect people and property from raging infernos, nurses who are under resourced and over worked in acute services, all of our public service staff are suffering," he said.

"The DUP duplicity on this is an affront to those staff who deserve fair conditions and a fair wage. Jeffrey Donaldson and his colleagues can't support the Tories and cry foul about their decisions at the same time.

"They should put people here first, not their selfish party political interests."

However, Mr Donaldson said: "The DUP signed a deal with the Conservatives to support them on matters such as the Queen's speech. The idea that we would have reneged on that agreement at the first hurdle is ludicrous.

"The amendment to the Queen's speech on public sector pay cap was not an appropriate time to divide the House of Commons on such a matter as it would have breached our agreement and potentially resulted in defeat for the Queen's speech.

"We are not prepared to sacrifice the extra funding we have secured for frontline public services in Northern Ireland simply to accommodate Jeremy Corbyn in his desire to bring down the government."

Mr Donaldson said his party has "consistently supported a fair pay deal for frontline public sector workers".

He added: "We expect that in the forthcoming budget, this issue will be addressed and we will be pressing for the pay cap to be lifted and other austerity measures eased in a fiscally responsible way."

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