Far fewer civil servants ‘went on strike than union predicted’

Strikes - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Strikes - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Far fewer civil servants went on strike on Wednesday than their trade union had predicted, Whitehall sources have claimed, citing the Government’s internal figures.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union had previously announced that 100,000 of their members from 124 government departments and other bodies would strike.

But internal government data on the walk-out collected from across Whitehall and shared with The Telegraph found that just 61,000 civil servants went on strike.

The figures are understood to have been submitted by government departments and compiled centrally in the Cabinet Office.

Responding to the figures, a PCS spokesman said that thousands of striking workers who are not strictly civil servants may have been missed, adding that the strike was "well-supported".

It is understood figures in the union believe striking employees in museums and galleries, for example, or workers who voted for strike action but are sick or on maternity leave, may not have been counted.

A Whitehall source challenged the union to publish its own internal estimates for how many members went on strike if it still stands by the 100,000 prediction.

The row comes as Rishi Sunak’s Government is locked in a protracted stand-off with a number of different public sector unions in a row which centres on pay levels.

Downing Street and the Treasury are insisting that any pay rises must not fuel price increases, with Mr Sunak naming halving inflation this year as one of his five priorities in the job.

‘It felt like a flop’

A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “40,000 workers the PCS claimed would walk out didn’t, so it felt like a flop. The hard Left union leaders are doing their members a disservice by losing them a day’s pay and even the members know it.”

A PCS spokesperson responded: “The Cabinet Office would be better served resolving this dispute than under-reporting who took strike action yesterday.

“Their figures fail to include thousands of our members who are not civil servants. All our reports show yesterday’s strikes were well-supported by our members, and members of the public, across England, Wales and Scotland.”

Wednesday’s industrial action saw coordination across a number of public sector unions, with teachers, university workers, train and bus drivers also walking out.

Around 500,000 workers had been due to take part, in what the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said was the biggest strike in more than a decade.

The Cabinet Office, headed up by Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been overseeing contingency planning on strike action.

At times Cobr meetings have been held to discuss the impact of the strikes. The acronym stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms and has become synonymous with responses to major national incidents such as terrorist attacks.

One in seven children at closed schools received no education on Wednesday during the walk-out, according to head teachers.

The majority of state schools in England and Wales were fully or partially closed because of teachers’ strikes.

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, said the strike action was “deeply disappointing”.