Cameron 'delighted as union leaders walk into strike trap'

Ministers believe public sector workers will alienate voters with this month's walkout

Strikes by millions of public sector workers over reform of their pensions will bolster support for the Government's austerity drive, senior cabinet sources have claimed.

No 10 is said to be "delighted" at the prospect of walkouts on 30 November despite a more generous offer being made to union leaders last week. Liberal Democrat and Conservative ministers privately believe their argument will be strengthened by public anger at disruption by state workers who will still have more generous retirement funds than most in the private sector.

"Militancy could be good for the coalition in the longer term," said a very senior Lib Dem minister. "It will be troublesome immediately, but the public is not with the unions. In the current economic circumstances, it will be difficult for the unions to gain public support for their case. We are confident that we can win the argument, and strikes will only damage the unions."

A Conservative minister added: "It is clear No 10 is delighted that the unions have fallen into their trap."

Last week the Government unveiled a new offer as the "best we are going to get" in terms of money, which included future schemes being based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary accruing for each year worked rather than 1/65th. No one less than 10 years off retirement will see changes to the date they can draw their pension or the amount they receive. If a deal can be struck, no further changes would be made for 25 years.

The unions immediately said the offer was not good enough to call off strikes that will hit public services including schools, courts, hospitals and councils. Ministers are gambling that the public will not side with strikers.

The talks have been led from the Government side by Francis Maude, the Tory Cabinet Office minister, and Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury. "We want agreement and to be able to finalise details of the plans by the end of the year," said a source close to the talks. "The ball is now in the unions' court."

The Government insists that it is a "basic mathematical issue" that civil service pensions need reform. No 10 has vowed to do "whatever we can to ameliorate the consequences of the strike", and believes the walkouts could drive a wedge between the unions and the public.

"If you are a public sector worker you will still end up in a situation where you have a defined pension at the end of it that's clear and generous," a Downing Street insider said. "If you are in the private sector, the vast majority don't know what their pension is."

Unison, which represents one million people, from school dinner ladies and bin collectors to social workers and NHS staff, defended the results of its ballot in favour of striking after just 29 per cent of those eligible took part. Ballot papers have now been sent to 200,000 members of the NASUWT teaching union. They are expected to be joined by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers, and for the first time in the dispute the National Association of Head Teachers is balloting members.

The Department for Education, which assumes the 30 November strike will be "bigger" than the one in June, is sending a two-page information bulletin to every school in England in an attempt to persuade teachers not to strike. Similar information is being distributed by the Department of Health and the Treasury.

Last month, Mr Maude told The Independent on Sunday: "At a time when the economy is not growing as strongly as everyone hoped, I think for the trade unions to be casually engaging in strike action that inflicted economic damage would imperil any goodwill that exists towards the trade union movement."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones