Strike will close many schools


Unions have been warned that stikes could shut nine out of 10 schools and that they could be playing with fire.

Ministers have revealed that:

  • Up to nine in ten schools could be forced to close their doors, affecting millions of families;
  • Transport chiefs warned major airports will be gridlocked, with queues of up to 12 hours and delayed flights;
  • Up 5,500 NHS operations and 12,000 diagnostic tests are expected to be postponed;
  • Millions of householders will face delays in bin collections;
  • Downing Street was unable to rule out closing Britain’s borders.
  • Senior Conservative ministers are increasingly determined to change the law in response to the strikes to ensure that at least 40 per cent of a trade union’s membership must vote for a ballot to be valid.

They are incandescent that despite months of negotiations, and several major concessions over proposed reforms to cut the cost of public sector pensions, union leaders have decided to stage a walkout which could cost the flatlining economy as much as £500million.

Teachers, teaching assistants, dinner ladies, nurses, hospital cleaners, care workers, binmen, PCSOs and lollipop people are joining the demonstration.

However, turnouts in strike ballots have been extraordinarily low, with as few as 25 per cent of workers taking part, and ministers now say the case for tightening the law to make it harder to conduct a legal strike is ‘pressing’.

One senior Government source said: "These strikes are happening on very poor turnouts. Union leaders hardly have a ringing endorsement from their members for very disruptive strikes and encouraging people to lose a day’s pay.

"The case for changing the law becomes harder to resist if they behave so irresponsibly. They are playing with fire."

Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Michael Gove warned striking would undermine teachers' best chances of securing a deal.

Under latest plans, pensions contributions are set to rise at least 50% from 6.4% to 9.6% of pay. There are also plans to phase in a retirement age of 68. The latest deal would offer anyone retiring in the next 10 years protection from the changes.

Mr Gove told the TES: "We've listened. There is a good offer on the table. And there is flexibility within that offer to make sure we tailor any final deal to what professionals deserve.

"I absolutely want to talk, but the important thing the unions need to recognise is that there is not an additional pot of gold we are hiding from them.

"There is a level beyond which, if people push it, then it becomes much more difficult for me to put the case to others within government that teachers deserve this deal."

The National Union of Teachers said the government was still asking teachers to pay a lot more and get a lot less. It added that it was difficult for the union to consider any new offer that did not contain any additional funds from the government.

TUC general secretary Brenden Barber said: “Dedicated public sector workers take no pleasure in taking action next week, but the blame for this strike lies squarely with the government for failing to engage in serious talks until unions decided on a day of action.”

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