270,000 Civil Service Strikers Plan Chaos

Article excerpt

Byline: Becky Barrow Business Correspondent

UP to 270,000 civil servants are threatening to cripple Britain next month in a series of strikes, unions warned yesterday.

The timing of the walkouts will be deeply embarrassing for Labour in the run-up to the General Election, which is expected in early May.

It raises the prospect of Gordon Brown facing the humiliation of campaigning around the country as strikes cause chaos.

Key civil servants will take part in the walkouts, including job centre staff, tax workers, coastguards, immigration officials and driving test examiners.

The Public and Commercial Services Union said it would start with a 48-hour strike on March 8 in protest at civil servants being 'robbed' of up to a third of their redundancy payoffs.

But this is just the beginning of a rolling programme of strikes that will take place every week next month. Union officials will meet next week to decide dates.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said members were furious about a revamped redundancy deal laid out in revisions to the Government's civil service compensation scheme, which they claim will hit those earning over [pounds sterling]20,000.

He accused Labour of penalising He accused Labour of penalising government staff, describing the move as 'a cynical attempt to cut jobs on the cheap'.

Mr Serwotka said: 'These cuts, which will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job, are more about crude politicking than making savings.

'We have suggested ways in which the Government can make these savings whilst protecting the rights of existing members. Yet it seems intent on penalising the people who keep this country running.'

He called on Labour to 'recognise the depth of anger' felt among civil servants.

The ballot results show 63.4 per cent of civil servants voted for strike action, which will be the first national walkout since May 2007. An overtime ban was backed by 81.4 per cent.

The row comes amid a backdrop of growing industrial unrest in the run-up to an election in which Labour is trailing the Tories in the polls.

Cabin crew at BA have also voted to strike, although no dates have been announced.

This leaves millions of passengers in limbo, with no idea whether or not their flights will be disrupted. The Unite union has promised not to strike during the Easter school holidays.

Last night, Cabinet Office Minister Tessa Jowell described the results of the ballot of civil servants as 'very disappointing'. She said: 'The deal on the civil service compensation scheme is fair for staff and taxpayers.

'The public will find it difficult to understand the PCS continuing to protest on their own against a package which brings the civil service into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector. …