Ministers will not be ‘held to ransom’ by unions, says Ben Wallace

Ministers will not be ‘held to ransom’ by unions, says Ben Wallace

The Government will not be “held to ransom” by striking public sector workers, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

As the wave of industrial action showed no sign of abating, Mr Wallace insisted there was “no magic wand” to produce the money for above-inflation pay awards.

His warning came after new TUC general secretary Paul Nowak accused ministers of “sabotaging” efforts to resolve disputes between unions and employers.

He signalled the unions could prepared to walk away from the system of independent pay review bodies for the public sector saying they were being used by the Government as “human shields”.

Speaking during a visit to Manchester Airport where military personnel are covering for striking Border Force staff, Mr Wallace rejected a call by Mr Nowak for ministers to get round the negotiating table.

He said the Government was not prepared to ignore the pay review bodies’ recommendations and that it was now up to the unions to talk to their employers directly.

“We’re not going back to the 1970s where the trade union barons thought that they ran the government,” he said.

“They used to meet in Downing Street and tell the Labour government of the day what they’re going to do. We’re not going to go back to that. We’re not going to be held to ransom.

“The trade unions can negotiate, they can negotiate with their employers and try and come to a resolution. That’s the most important thing. There’s no magic wand here to come up with money that the country doesn’t have.

“Ultimately we’re in a position where we’re trying to listen to the independent advice, through the independent pay bodies, offer a settlement to the work forces and then try and bring that to a resolution, but if the trade union leadership think we’re all just going to ignore these independent bodies to suit their agenda then they’ll be mistaken.”