Ministers try to break strikes by splitting teachers from the crowd

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Some educational union leaders believe it would be possible to agree a deal in these separate talks

Ministers are attempting to split off striking teachers from other public-sector workers as part of a strategy to divide the union movement and prevent further mass walk-outs.

Teachers' leaders are due to sit down with government negotiators today for further talks on the details of a new pension scheme. Sources on both sides said the talks were at an advanced stage and "progressing well".

Ministers are keen to do a deal with at least one set of public-sector workers in an attempt to split the union movement and put pressure on others to accept a deal. That eagerness will only have increased last night as it was reported that police officers in London had been drafted in to ferry people to hospitals in the absence of striking ambulance workers, suggesting the strength and effectiveness of yesterday's strike action was greater than first thought.

The teachers' pension scheme has been identified as one of those where it is easiest to reach agreement and the Treasury may be prepared to make further concessions. Asked if the Government might do a deal with one section of public-sector workers and not others, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It is possible."

Yesterday's strike closed 62 per cent of schools in England and Wales entirely with only 16 per cent operating normally. Ministers accept that the closures had a significant economic impact as parents had to take time off work to look after children. They believe the impact of other striking workers was less.

The Government claimed only a quarter of civil servants had not turned up for work and just 19 out of 900 Jobcentres had closed. It added that there had been no serious disruption at airports and contingency arrangements appeared to have "worked well".

David Cameron claimed that industrial action was "looking like something of a damp squib". However, the unions said reports from picket lines showed a "huge" turnout, with up to 90 per cent of staff in some departments, including Revenue and Customs, striking. More than 1,000 rallies were held across the UK, including one in central London attended by tens of thousands.

"I have been to pickets around central London and spirits are sky-high," said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union.

In a statement to the Commons, the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude condemned strikes as "irresponsible, inappropriate and untimely" and said there had been "a low response" from public servants.

But the teachers' strike was well-supported and the Government believes if a deal could be done with them, other workers would find it more difficult to continue with industrial action.

Unison officials – who represent many of the most poorly-paid public-sector workers – admit it will be difficult to call their members out on more strikes due to the financial strain it imposes.

Education union leaders are due to meet civil servants this morning, before going on to have their own summit on how to follow up on yesterday's action. The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said he felt progress was being made.

Some union leaders believe it would be possible to agree options in the separate talks over teachers' pensions.

"I think that's what's likely to happen," said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. However, they believe Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement has made that harder with his announcement of a further two years of caps on public-sector pay.

Suggested Topics
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

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: IT Projects Engineer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - OTE £60,000

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Inbound Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Inbound Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

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
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent