Public sector staff ‘would consider industrial action’

MORE than half of public sector workers would consider taking industrial action, according to a study out today as activists geared up for the biggest union protest in more than 20 years.

Upwards of 100,000 union members and campaigners are expected to join a march and rally in London on Saturday against cuts in public spending and attacks on jobs, services and pensions.

Almost 650 coaches have been hired from towns and cities across the UK and 10 trains chartered from areas including Scotland and the north-west of England.

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A survey by the public sector union Unison and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union showed that a third of public-sector workers had personal debts of £10,000 or more, revealing the “shocking impact” of the Government’s cuts and pay freeze.

The poll of 10,000 workers also revealed that many were cutting spending on food, children’s clothes, healthcare and going out.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Workers across the public sector are under siege from all sides, from job and service cuts, to pension increases, pay freezes and rising inflation.

“This survey shows the strategies that members have been forced to take to make ends meet, and they make grim reading.

“The level of personal debt is frightening. You know that when a family is forced to cut down spending on their children, they have tried everything else first and are pretty desperate.”

Research for recruitment website found that 52 per cent of public-sector workers would consider industrial action over issues including job cuts and pension changes. Most of the 1,600 workers questioned said any cuts should be targeted at consultants or management.

A separate study by recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark found that cuts in the public sector had left departments under-resourced, resulting in poor staff morale.

The survey of 1,000 workers found little support for spending cuts, with three out of five describing morale as average or poor.

Duncan Ward, of Badenoch & Clark, said: “This research paints a glum picture of life in the public sector at present.

“Morale is low, as workers are asked to work harder whilst having little job security.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This survey shows that the Government’s savage programme of cuts and so-called reforms have left public servants feeling demoralised, insecure and let down.

“Ministers should not believe that public-sector workers will stand idly by in the face of job losses, a two-year pay freeze and potential attacks on their pensions.

“That’s why next Saturday more than 100,000 public-sector workers, union members, community activists, public service users, students and ordinary members of the public from across the UK will be in London for the TUC’s March for the Alternative.”