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Government sets up ‘hit squad’ to beat public sector strikes

The government has set up a ‘hit squad’ to counter future public sector strikes as the Tories fear a summer of anti-austerity discontent, and is considering ending rules that prohibit agency workers from replacing strikers.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock MP said he has a team of 73 officials working on contingency plans with employers and public sector managers to ensure staff are prepared to cross picket lines to keep services operating in the face of mass walkouts.

He also indicated that a team of Whitehall lawyers are analysing every strike ballot to make sure that walkouts are legal.

If strikes do happen, the government’s emergency Cobra committee will co-ordinate the response.

Hancock said: “We are ready to use the Cobra system if there are strikes. We are ready to respond.

“This is all about making sure that people can get on with their lives, so people can use the train, children can stay in school, and the buses run on time. We want to make sure people don’t have to put up with the chaos of strikes.”

Hancock told the paper that changing the law was necessary because “it’s clearly nonsensical to have agency workers banned from filling in the gaps”.

He added: “I pay tribute to the people who go in to work to try to minimise disruption when there’s a strike.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said ministers should address the causes of unrest rather than goading unions into strike action.

She said: “Instead of bragging about making plans for mass strikes, ministers should think about why so many workers in the public and private sector feel the economy isn’t working for them.

“The recovery is weak and unfairly shared, with the low-paid and public sectors workers being shut out through cuts to tax credits, public sector pay and the public services that so many families rely on.

“The extreme cuts the Chancellor is planning will do nothing to turn around Britain’s poor productivity, which is essential for the sustained growth, rising living standards and stronger public finances that the country needs.

“The answer isn’t breaking strikes but addressing the causes of discontent in the first place.”

Hancock also addressed the anti-austerity protest during which tens of thousands of people marched through London last weekend, describing them as “protests against democracy”.

He said: “The protests we have seen are protests against democracy because they are protesting against the election outcome and they’re protesting against the reality of the situation.

“There is nothing more damaging for the country, or for those who work in the public sector for the public good than losing control of the finances. It is harder to provide support for those who need it most if the finances have been let out of control.”

His comments drew some astonished reactions on Twitter, as Labour MP Emily Thornberry summed up in her tweet.

(Picture by: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Mags   29/06/2015 at 22:14

Well, it is Matthew Hancock M.P who is anti democratic!!

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