Strike action opposition

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
November 29, 2011, 12:14 PM GMT+0

Half of Brits oppose planned public sector strike action; 17% parents will take day off to look after kids

Around half of the British public are opposed to headteachers, teachers and civil servants taking strike action tomorrow, our poll has found. We asked people whether they support or oppose strike action by each of the separate professions, and found that opposition hovered around fifty per cent for each, while around two in five are in support of the action against changes to public sector pensions.

And while support for the strikes is unsurprisingly higher among public sector workers than those in the private sector, it is by no means universal, with between 52-54% support and a still-sizeable 39-41% opposition.

  • 50% of the British public oppose headteachers taking strike action over changes to public sector pensions (38% support)
  • 49% oppose teachers doing so (while 42% support)
  • 51% oppose civil servants taking strike action (39% support)
  • Among public sector workers, 52% support headteachers striking, 54% teachers, and 53% civil servants (with 41%, 39% and 39% in opposition respectively)
  • Compared to 33% of private sector workers supporting headteachers, 36% teachers and 34% civil servants (and 55%, 55% and 56% in opposition respectively)

The strike action by teachers will mean that some schools across the country will close, amid fears that parents whose children are usually at school during the day will be forced to take time off work to look after school-age children at home.

  • Our poll found that 30% of those with children aged 5-18 say that they or their partner will be at home anyway, so will be able to look after any children at home
  • While 17% said that they or their partner will have to take a day off (and 9% said that they would work from home to look over them)
  • 11% apiece said that their kids would either stay at home alone, or would be cared for by friends or extended family

Just 5% said that they planned to pay for childcare to cover the strike day

Party lines

Across party lines, support and opposition for the strikes is predictably split, with those intending to vote Conservative far less in support and far more in opposition, than those intending to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat.

Meanwhile, under a quarter of people (23%) think David Cameron and the Government have handled the issue of public sector pensions and negotiations well, compared to 59% who feel it has been done badly.

When it comes to the Labour party - traditionally the party most in line with unions – Labour supporters are only just in favour of leader Ed Miliband supporting the strikes, with no majority view either way. 41% say that Miliband should support the action, 14% think he should oppose, and 34% say he should do neither.

Widespread disruption

Expected to be the biggest walk-out since the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979, over 2 million workers are reportedly due to take action tomorrow. As well as schools planning to close, airport authority BAA has warned that airports will experience long delays while the NHS is expected to cancel some 60,000 operations and tests.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has warned that the current pensions deal as it stands will be scrapped should the workers strike and cause such nationwide mass disruption.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has emphasised the need for reform, to make it harder for the public sector to take action, especially where turnout and support among eligible union members is low.

‘A comfortable retirement’

Yet, the unions say the pensions deal is unfair and lacks clarity; Dave Prentis from Unison has argued that ‘[his] members believe that everyone, whatever their job and wherever they work, deserves a decent pension’, which, he says, the current proposals do not offer. He told the Metro newspaper, ‘We [and the Government] have talked for eight months and got nowhere’.

However, some supporters of the Governments’ pension changes believe the offerings are far greater than any private sector employee could hope for. Ros Altmann director general of the over-50s group Saga, states that the Government’s offer would actually leave public sector workers with ‘tremendously generous pensions’ that ‘you simply cannot get anywhere else’.

She further added that it’s ‘worrying’ how workers fail to recognize how ‘valuable’ their pensions really are.

See the survey details and full results here (page 5-7)