(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior ministers discussed the risk of public pay increases fueling inflation, a further hint that the governemnt is preparing a major showdown with UK trade unions.

A meeting of the UK cabinet on Tuesday discussed the current negotiations on public sector pay, Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters at a regular briefing. Speakers included Johnson, as well as Treasury Secretary Simon Clarke and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Pay review bodies are set to set out their recommendations to ministers in the next few months, Blain said. Ministers can override their findings -- and Blain’s account of the cabinet discussions laid out the government’s thinking.

Shapps, for example, told ministers that pay increases for railway workers over the last decade had surpassed those for other public workers, according to Blain. That remark is likely to further anger the railway union RMT, which is balloting members on strike action.

The government is also under pressure to reward National Health Service staff, who faced extreme conditions during the pandemic and are now under pressure to reduce waiting times for patients.

“There is an independent process that will make recommendations to government,” Blain said. “We will consider them, but it would be irresponsible in the current global situation we find ourselves in to discount inflation as a factor when considering public sector pay.”

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.