Public sector strikes to go ahead
The Government is facing the biggest outbreak of industrial action since it came to power after civil servants joined teachers in voting heavily for strikes in worsening rows over pensions, pay and jobs.
Up to 750,000 public sector workers will stage a 24-hour walkout on June 30, with civil servants then embarking on a month-long ban on overtime.The action could spread later in the year to other parts of the public sector, including councils and the NHS, threatening an autumn of discontent involving more than 1.5 million workers.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union voted by 61.1% in favour of strikes, and by 83.6% for other forms of industrial action, in a turnout of 32.4%. The union is protesting at planned changes to pensions as well as job cuts and a pay freeze for civil servants as part of the Government's austerity measures.
The news followed huge strike votes by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) over pensions. More than 300,000 teachers were balloted in total, and the walkout is set to be the biggest day of action by teachers in decades.
The ATL has never taken national strike action in its 127-year history, and the last time it took national industrial action was in 1979, before current legislation on balloting, over changes to teachers' pay.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said it would be a "big mistake" for teachers and civil servants to go on strike while negotiations were still continuing, with fresh talks planned for later this month.
The Department for Education said a strike "will only damage pupils' learning and inconvenience their busy working parents". The teaching unions say the Government's proposed pension changes will see them work longer, pay in more and receive less when they retire.
University lecturers will also take industrial action on June 30, while direct action group UK Uncut said it will stage protests on the same day to coincide with the strike.
PCS leader Mark Serwotka said: "This result shows that public servants, who provide vital services from the cradle to the grave, will not stand back while everything they have ever worked for is taken from them.
"The Government admits that money cut from pensions will go straight to the Treasury to help pay off the deficit in what is nothing more than a tax on working in the public sector. The very modest pay and pensions of public servants did not cause the recession, so they should not be blamed or punished for it."