Millions of public sector workers would be spared pay cuts under Liberal Democrat plans.
Leader Nick Clegg said wages would rise in real terms for two years from 2016, and then above inflation once the deficit has been dealt with.
He said public servants had “made enough sacrifices”.
But the PCS Union said that in real terms Lib Dems had cut the “pay, pensions and jobs of public servants” in government.
In other election news:
- David Cameron says a Conservative government would create an extra 600,000 free childcare places
- Labour says it would invest £150m a year in cancer diagnostic equipment from 2016/17
- Ed Miliband’s party would also appoint former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly as an “Independent Commissioner for Older People”
Public sector pay was increased by up to 1% in March, with schools entitled to give top-performing teachers a rise of up to 2%.
This followed a 1% rise in the previous two years, which was preceded by a two-year freeze, excluding the lowest-paid workers.
Last summer hundreds of thousands of people took part in rallies and marches across the UK as part of a day of strike action by public service unions.
The Lib Dem announcement expands on its manifesto pledge of “fair and affordable increases” in public sector pay.
Wages would be tied for two years to CPI inflation, which is predicted to rise by 0.2% in 2016-17, and 1.2% in 2017-18. After these two years, the Lib Dems would instruct the review bodies that set public sector pay to deliver above-inflation rises in line with the growth of the economy.
The party said the plans would mean a minimum pay rise of £350 over two years for a nurse paid £25,000 a year.
- Balance the budget fairly through a mixture of cuts and taxes on higher earners
- Increase tax-free allowance to £12,500
- Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 with an extra £2.5bn and qualified teachers in every class
- Invest £8bn in the NHS. Equal care for mental physical health
- Five new laws to protect nature and fight climate change
Mr Clegg said public sector workers had made a “huge contribution to balancing the books” over the past six years.
He added: “They now deserve to know there is an end to real-terms cuts in pay, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and their pay will return to normal levels in the years to come.”
The Lib Dems said they had budgeted for the increase by not including pay restraint in the £12bn cuts the party is planning.
Labour backed the pay restraint in the previous Parliament, and its manifesto says any decisions on public sector pay in the next Parliament must “prioritise those on lower incomes”, be evidence based and respect pay review body recommendations.
In his 2014 conference speech, Conservative Chancellor George Osborne said: “We will go on restraining public sector pay.”
The Green Party says it would restore the one million public sector jobs it says were lost under the coalition government.
Responding to the Lib Dem announcement, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “This Damascene conversion on the eve of electoral humiliation, coming from the party that pledged not to increase tuition fees, will be seen for what it is.”
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