Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Unions reject 15-minute strike idea

Francis Maude floated the unusual idea that public sector workers would be allowed to down tools for a 15-minute protest

Union leaders have attacked a Government minister for making a "daft" suggestion that public sector workers wouldn't lose any pay if they only go on strike for 15 minutes during a day of action later this month.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that the Government was willing to accommodate some kind of "token action" when public sector workers strike over pensions on November 30.

Public sector workers would be allowed to down tools for a 15-minute protest without losing pay if trade unions called off full-scale strikes, he said in a newspaper interview.

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, who has attended a series of meetings with ministers this year over the planned pension reforms, said: "Maude's proposal for a 15 minute strike is a daft idea. We are asking members to vote for a strike not a tea break.

"What he says is unlawful anyway which is surprising coming from a minister.

"He should focus more on the negotiations which are at a critical stage."

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "If Francis Maude had genuinely wanted this idea to be taken seriously I would have expected him to have raised it directly with the TUC and unions rather than play it as a PR gambit in a press interview.

"The way to resolve this dispute and avoid industrial action is to make real progress and acceptable offers in the negotiations. Francis Maude seems to want to divert attention away from the government's failure to make proper offers in scheme negotiations.

"Ministers had better make their mind up whether they intend to negotiate genuinely in good faith or through the megaphone of media stunts."

The day of action on November 30 could see over two million workers going on strike, the biggest number since the 1979 Winter of Discontent.