Public Sector Strikes
Asked for an update on the strike situation, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the civil service had put rigorous contingency plans in place as expected today and essential public services were up and running, with border controls in place, and job centres and pensions offices open for business.
Civil service management indicative figures gathered from every government department had been returned and as of midday today, over 75% of civil servants were not on strike. As of noon, just less than 100,000 civil servants were on strike, around a fifth of the total civil service workforce.
Asked if public sector pensions were unaffordable or unsustainable, the PMS replied that that was a semantic debate. Asked if this was about fairness, the PMS replied that the current pension system was not sustainable for a number of reasons; people were living longer, pensions had increased over a period of time and it was not fair on the taxpayer to be expected to pay an increasing burden for civil service pensions. In terms of negotiations, they were still ongoing.
Asked how the Prime Minister would characterise the outcome of today’s strikes, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s views were well known; talks were ongoing and therefore today’s strikes were premature. The PMS added that there had been a minimal impact on services and essential services were still running.
On whether this was a successful day for the Government, the PMS replied that the important thing was that essential services continued to be delivered.
Asked what she thought it said about the issue that most services had not been disrupted, the PMS said that she would not get into analysing today’s events. The Prime Minister had said that he thought the strikes were premature and talks would continue.
Asked how many staff from Downing Street went on strike, the PMS said less than a handful. On whether the Prime Minister’s day had been affected by the strikes at all, the PMS said no, the Prime Minister had been working from Downing Street.
Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the new policing tactics deployed today, the PMS said that she would not be commenting on what was an operational matter for the police.
On whether the Prime Minister would consider the outcome of today’s strikes as having strengthened the government’s hand, the PMS replied that she would not characterise it that way. The Prime Minister had made his position clear and talks would continue.
Asked if today’s turnout was a show of weakness, the PMS said that the figures spoke for themselves.