Their leaders insist that the annual rounds of negotiations to fix countrywide pay levels are essential.
But ministers are understood to believe that differing pay rates will help to introduce competition into the public sector.
Ministers are preparing for a major showdown with public sector unions over moves to dismantle national pay bargaining.
The Government says it will allow all Health Service employers – whether hospitals or GP surgeries – to pay staff whatever they like.
It is the first step toward a wider drive for regional and variable pay rates across the public sector.
Unions are likely to respond with industrial action because their national role would be diminished.
Public sector pay in the regions is now about 5 per cent higher for men and up to 13 per cent higher for women than it is in the private sector.
The Government’s white paper on health, published this week, sets out plans to allow variable pay for 1.4million NHS employees.‘Pay decisions should be led by healthcare employers rather than imposed by the Government.‘In future, all individual employers will have the right, as foundation trusts have now, to determine pay for their own staff,’ it says.Many public sector employers, ministers believe, will continue to use national pay scales as a benchmark.Last month’s emergency budget announced that public pay will be frozen for two years for those earning more than £21,000, limiting employers’ room for manoeuvre until after that date.TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘The Government will bite off more than it can chew if it gets rid of national pay bargaining in the NHS.