Strike costs will force unions to back down, ministers predict

Striking Border Force staff on the picket line at Birmingham Airport (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
Striking Border Force staff on the picket line at Birmingham Airport (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

Ministers believe striking unions will eventually back down as they are running out of money, according to a report on Friday.

With unions across the public sector taking action, Government ministers are said to believe the costs, including strike pay and hardship funding, are unsustainable in the long-term.

One minister told The Times: “The unions can’t sustain this in the long term, they know that.”

A second source said: ”Union leaders are talking tough but strike action is an act of self-harm against their own workers who are losing out on wages and double pay days this Christmas.

“For their own workers’ sake, union leaders need to stop playing politics and call off the costly strikes.”

The comments follow Rishi Sunak’s stance that the Government had acted “fairly and reasonably” in accepting the recommendations of the independent public sector pay review bodies.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also accused the unions of holding “the public to ransom” with continual strikes as he called for a resolution to be found.

On strike days, unions typically offer up to £50 a day. Some also use hardship funds to help support members at the lower end of the pay scale.

According to reports, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has a £50million strike fund while the Public and Communications Services Union has a fund of just £4million for its members.

Earlier this month, the RCN opened a page for public donations in order to support its members.

Responding to ministers, Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said: “Unhelpful language about the affordability of the strikes from those in power will only embolden nursing staff even more.

“They know what is unaffordable is a failure to invest in nursing. Ministers can stop this now if they are prepared to speak about pay. I will not dig in if they will not dig in.”

The RCN has planned further action on January 18 and 19, while ambulance workers will walk out on January 11 and 23.

Border Force workers within the CWU have continued their own action in the lead up to the New Year with some warning walk outs could continue for six months, if a resolution isn’t found.

Another rail strike led by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union, will also run from January 3-7.