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Unions hit back after Tories claim low turnout

By Alan Jones

The Conservatives attacked yesterday's strikes, arguing that they were based on ballots conducted years ago and only saw low turnout from union members.

The Tories are drawing up plans to change employment law so that a threshold of those balloted would have to be reached before industrial action could be held.

But Unite hit back saying that no Tory Cabinet member achieved a 50% voting threshold in the last general election.

General secretary Len McCluskey said: "It is utter hypocrisy for the Government to talk about mandates for trade unions when not a single member of the present Cabinet would have been elected using the same criteria."

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "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.

"As part of our long-term economic plan, this Government has had to take tough decisions, including to restrain public sector pay."

Around a fifth of schools in England were forced to close.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the National Union of Teachers' strike mandate was two years old and did not have the backing of the majority of the union's members.

Mr Gove also backed the idea of re-examining balloting laws, saying it was important that public services were protected and that any strike "reflects the interests of those in whose name it is taken".

The PCS described the Cabinet Office's figures as "laughable", adding: "No one can trust this government to keep reliable figures, it can't even tell us what it's done with dozens of Home Office files."

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