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As is frequently the case, it is the cock-up theory rather than the conspiracy one that best explains why the government thought it was on solid ground to announce in the budget that the cuts to the wage bill it had only referred to theoretically before will now begin immediately.

In terms of the proposal, instead of the percentage increase in the consumer price index (CPI) plus half a percentage point, and the single point or so notch increase that was expected on April 1, state employees will receive the CPI increase minus three points, or wage growth of 1.5% in nominal terms. Trade unions, which learnt only the day before the budget that this would be the plan, were blindsided and unsurprisingly full of war talk...

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