UK shadow chancellor Ed Balls has indicated Labour will support a public sector pay freeze in order to help reduce the deficit.
Mr Balls told the Today programme on BBC Radio that getting people into jobs must come before higher pay.
The government announced in November that public sector pay would rise by only 1% in the two years to 2015. When inflation is taken into account, this is likely to amount to a pay cut.
In a speech to the Fabian Society in London on Saturday, Mr Balls said Labour faces "a big task" to regain economic credibility and win back public trust.
He said he could not make a commitment to reverse any of the government's cuts.
''I understand the anger in the public and private sectors at that income squeeze but the reality is given the economy failing as it is, that that pay restraint is going to have to continue,'' he told the BBC.
''And if people expect Labour to say 'we'll just oppose', we can't do that. (It) would be irresponsible because the priority has got to be getting people into jobs rather than people being paid more.''
Mr Balls also said that the option of awarding higher pay was not available to any political party.
''It would have been tough on pay for any government. It's going to be tougher because of (Chancellor George) Osborne's mistakes, but I can't promise to reverse that now.''
The BBC's political correspondent says Mr Balls's comments are a clear attempt to counter the accusation that Labour lacks a credible plan for dealing with the deficit.