Govt firing on all cylinders as strike approaches

By staff

The government is using every tactic at its disposal to reduce the impact of the public sector strike tabled for next week.

Civil servants are being drafted in to fill UK Border Agency roles at passport control, while senior officials issue a torrent of anti-strike rhetoric.

Danny Alexander and Francis Maude, the government's negotiating team on the dispute, insisted jobs would be lost because of the action and that half a billion pounds would be knocked off the economy.

"If you lose a big chunk of output, it's very hard to see how that doesn't translate into fewer jobs," Mr Maude said.

Union leaders said the Treasury was using the strike to excuse what are expected to be disappointing forecasts in the autumn statement.

"While the strike on November 30th will obviously cause disruption, the figures suggested by ministers are fantasy economics," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

“This is the clearest sign yet that next week’s autumn statement will be a damp squib and the government is using the strike as yet another desperate excuse."

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “If Danny Alexander thinks that the nurses, teaches and our members on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are the enemy he needs to take a long hard look at the hackers, blaggers and greed merchants who have been dragging us through the sewer for years.”

Concerns were raised about civil servants replacing border staff – a move condemned by union leaders.

"Instead of scratching around trying to put untrained people on the front line, they should say today they want urgent talks to try to resolve the dispute," Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, told the Today programme.

The move is politically dangerous given the recent row over relaxed summer checks at Britain's ports, which triggered the resignation of UK Border Force chief Brodie Clark.

But with UKBA staff ready to walk out, ministers are worried about lengthy waits for visitors.

Next Wednesday could see two million workers go on strike in what is expected to be the biggest industrial action since the 'winter of discontent' in 1979.