Public sector employees would strike to protect pay and pensions

Public sector employees would strike to protect pay and pensions regardless of disruption to public services, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

But its Employee Outlook focus on industrial action found union members are more likely to support strike action against a reduction in pay (41%) and pensions entitlement (35%) only if all other remedies had failed.

Overall, almost half (49%) of public sector employees would do what is necessary to protect their jobs, regardless of disruption to public services, compared to just 27% of private sector workers.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (74%) agree striking public sector workers will quickly lose sympathy with the public if they cause disruption.

In addition, almost two thirds of respondents (64%) agree with the statement that “these are tough times and the deficit needs to be reduced through cuts to public spending”. However, 69% of private sector workers agreed compared to 50% in the public sector.

The survey also found 43% of employees agree unions are “good at pursuing their own political agendas rather than simply looking after the interests of their members’.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “The Comprehensive Spending Review announcement will create a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and it is essential that, as the details of job cuts and any changes to pay or pension provision are announced over the next few months, public sector employers are allowed the necessary time to communicate and consult on what changes are being planned, and just as crucially why.

“People are much more likely to accept tough messages if they are given the right information at the right time and feel their views have at least been heard and taken into account before decisions are made.

“When the private sector went through the recession there were many positive examples of how employers and unions worked together in partnership to keep people in jobs. Examples included compromises over pay and increases in flexible working, as well as things like extended leave.

“Partnership working already flourishes in many parts of the public sector but the extent of the changes in the pipeline may well stretch this to the limit in some cases. However, effective partnership between unions and employers can make a powerful contribution to ensuring the government’s public sector reform agenda will be successful.”

Read more articles on public and private sector pay