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Industrial Action

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 30 June 2011

I am updating the House on the impact of the strike action by the PCS union on the civil service today.

I can confirm that our latest data gathered from all Government Departments show that, as of 12 noon today, just less than 100,000 civil servants were on strike. This is around a fifth of the total civil service work force.

The civil service has rigorous contingency plans in place to ensure that essential public services are maintained during periods of industrial action. For example, I can confirm to the House that:

Nearly all jobcentres are open for business, with only a handful closed to the public.

All UK borders are open and operating with only minor delays to the travelling public.

150 out of 159 HMRC enquiry centres are open for business as usual.

All HMRC contact centres are open and online services to the public are operating as usual.

Very few civil servants wanted this strike at all, and less than 10% of them voted for it. Less than half of PCS’s own members chose to take part today, and far fewer than in previous strikes in 2004 and 2007. The vast majority of hard working public sector employees do not support today’s premature and unjustified strike and have come into work today.

The Government are still in detailed discussions with the trade unions on public sector pension reform. We had a constructive meeting on Monday, which was one of a series of ongoing talks the Government have committed to with the TUC, and further meetings have been scheduled for July.

The Government are committed to working openly and constructively with the trade unions on public sector pensions and we believe both sides have a responsibility to see the talks through. This is a genuine consultation in order to try to agree a way forward with the unions.

The reform of public sector pensions is essential, but we will ensure that public sector pensions will still be among the very best, with a guaranteed pension which very few private sector staff now enjoy. But they will be paid later because people live longer. And public sector staff will pay more, for a fairer balance between what they pay and what other taxpayers pay.

We know that pension reform is an important issue and one that public sector staff care about a great deal. I want to thank the vast majority of hard working public sector employees for coming in to work today, ignoring the pickets and putting the public first.