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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Tories & Unions clash over the "day of action"

Following the strike in the public sector today the Government claims on the turnout and impact:
  • Support for the strike has been poor, with turnout down compared to previous occasions. We expect the total turnout to be less than half a million, well short of the numbers claimed by the Unions.
  • Civil Service turnout likely to be fewer than 80,000 - just 18% of the workforce. We believe this to be the lowest number ever for a national strike. We have robust strike reporting arrangements in place, unlike the Trade Unions.
  • All job centres are open.
  • Four out of five driving tests went ahead today as planned.
  • Majority of schools are open in England and Wales. The Local Government Association estimate 95% of local council staff to be in work.
  • Fire services in England continuing to operate with robust contingency plans in place. Many local refuse, leisure and social care services are contracted out and unaffected by the strike. Overall impact on public services overall has been limited.
  • Where services have been affected, these have been mitigated by a surge in demand for some online services. This is testament to the Government's digital transformation plans for public services.
  • Measures ensured there were no unplanned closures in the courts.
Commenting the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude said: "We want to thank the vast majority of public servants who turned up for work as usual today. Our official estimates are that fewer than half a million took part in this strike action - well short of the inflated claims of union leaders. Within the Civil Service, there has been the lowest recorded turnout for a national strike. Every Jobcentre opened, the majority of children went to school as normal and fire services continue to operate with robust contingency arrangements in place. As part of our long-term economic plan, this Government has had to take tough decisions, including to restrain public sector pay. The blame for today's disruption rests with those union leaders who pushed for unnecessary strike action with weak mandates."

The government have outlined what they call "tough choices" in response to today's strikes:
  • We recognise the frustrations of those that chose to take industrial action today. But hard choices are necessary to secure and consolidate economic recovery. Our children and grandchildren will be forced to pay for generations to come if we borrow heavily.
  • Public sector pay has grown by more than the private sector since the start of the recession, and average pay remains higher in the public sector.
  • Restraining pay protects jobs. This Government has saved £12 billion pounds that would have otherwise have to come from cuts to jobs and public services if we hadn't taken action.
  • The Civil Service are asking for a 5% pay claim, which would cost 18,000 civil service jobs.
  • Legitimacy
  • There is no justification for taking strike action on such low turnouts or old mandates.
  • The NUT mandate is nearly two years' old (Sept 12), while fewer than 20% of local government union members voted for strike action (or less than 6% of all local government workers).
  • Raises serious questions on need to look at reforming rules that govern Trade Union ballot. 

Responding the GMB union said that there are more people on strike than union members as school and council staff, union members or not, are very angry and it's time someone listened.

The GMB commented on the impact of the strikes today in schools and councils. Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services said "From ringing around GMB regions and branches our information is that over 1 million workers are on strike in councils and schools. The majority of schools are closed or partially closed. Council services are significantly affected. However a number of our members have been released to work so that we do not endanger life and limb. But the bottom line is that there are more people on strike than just union members and we've been overwhelmed by the support. Local council and schools staff, union members or not, are very angry and it's time someone listened."

Also commenting on the "day of action" across England and Wales, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “Thank you to all the teachers who took strike action today alongside five other public sector unions. We know this is not a decision that was taken lightly. Extraordinarily the Government’s response to today’s action has been to completely ignore the issues and instead seek to reduce people’s right to strike. There is no point pontificating on the fact that citizens have the right to strike if every time they do so they are vilified. It is a clear indication that this Government does not want to listen to our concerns, nor do they want them drawn to the general public’s attention."

Continuing Ms Blower said: “The reason why this dispute is so long running is due to the absolute failure of this Government to engage in any meaningful discussions on the main issues of our dispute. The responsibility for today’s action lies fairly and squarely at the door of Government. It is high time that we saw some significant movement. Teachers love their jobs but unless their concerns on pay, pensions and workload are addressed teacher recruitment will certainly become an issue.”