Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Unions reveal strike ballot results

Brendan Barber said a suggestion for a 15-minute strike was a PR stunt

The prospect of the biggest strike for decades will come closer this week when unions representing hundreds of thousands of public sector workers announce the results of industrial action ballots in the bitter row over pensions.

The dispute worsened this weekend after unions attacked a Government minister for making a "daft" suggestion that public sector workers would not 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."

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.

Ministers have criticised unions for planning to continue with the industrial action while talks are ongoing and revised offers have been put on the table.

Civil servants, teachers, council and health workers have been voting in recent weeks on whether to strike in protest against the Government's controversial reforms to public sector pensions.

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