Benefits for striking low-paid workers to be axed

Striking public sector workers Striking workers will not have their wages topped up from next year

Low-paid workers who take strike action will no longer have their wages topped up by the state, ministers say.

Workers on up to £13,000 a year can currently claim working tax credits to top up their income even when they take part in industrial action.

But from next year there will be no increase in benefits if a worker's income drops due to strike action.

The TUC said it was a "mean-spirited" move aimed at deterring workers from standing up for their rights.

The change is part of the new Universal Credit, which is replacing the benefit system with a single payment.

Mr Duncan Smith says the fact that the current benefit system compensates workers and tops up their income when they go on strike is "unfair and creates perverse incentives".

'Democratic right'

"Striking is a choice, and in future benefit claimants will have to pay the price for that choice, as under Universal Credit, we no longer will," said Mr Duncan Smith.

Start Quote

This is gesture politics aimed at putting fear into vulnerable”

End Quote Unite

But the TUC's head of economics, Nicola Smith, said most workers did not choose to go on strike "unless they feel they have no other choice".

And the money they lost in pay while taking part in industrial action was "far more significant than the small amounts of top-ups they get through the tax credits system".

She told the BBC News channel the right to strike was a democratic right that every worker in the UK had.

"And I think it's important that the government recognises that, and doesn't move ahead with this mean-spirited change that means for a few families things will be even tougher than they have to be at what will already be a very difficult time."

A spokesman for the Unite trade union said: "This is gesture politics aimed at putting fear into vulnerable, low-paid workers to stop them from standing up for their rights against poor working conditions."

Under the new rules, benefit claimants will be identified as being involved in a trade dispute using information provided by HM Revenue and Customs, the government said.

The amount a household receives in benefits will then be assessed using the normal, "non-strike" level of earnings.

'Starving people'

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, for Labour, said every week the government found "someone else to blame" for the recession.

"Britain needs a plan for jobs and growth and a government which will take a sensible approach to industrial relations.

"Instead David Cameron's out-of-touch government, not content with creating panic at the pumps after mishandling the fuel dispute, are talking about starving people back to work.

"It seems that Iain Duncan Smith has put the idea that 'we are all in this together' well and truly in the bin."

Labour MP Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions select committee, said questions remained on the Universal Credit.

"This is another example of it not being as generous as the government first made out that it was.

"The gains may actually be less than the gains that previously existed under the tax credit system. "



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  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    What I don't understand is when the MPs expenses fiddling saga was exposed why MPs were allowed to carry on claiming expenses anyway. It's not as if they can't afford a chocolate bar, a duck moat etc on their salaries.

    So why punish people fighting for rights who really need every penny but allow MPs to carry on with fiddling (apologies to Nero) while the global economy burns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    73. Piggyback
    So I'm striking because of low pay and unfair work conditions, unnoticed because I'm at the bottom of the ladder. The government responds by pushing me further into the ground. Effectively they want to make the poor poorer whilst the rich do what they want

    If you hate your job so much, get a different one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Seriously this government doesn't have a clue. Tories, 'we are a party that has 'family' values', well how can poor families ever have better chances at better pay/conditions if you penalise them working for a company who will not invest in them to be more productive for them and they require industrial action. Tories, focus on the wasted millions you spend on new policies like this, what a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I'm sure the Tories would welcome back debtors' prisons and work houses

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    #167.John B
    "Starvation into submission! Every worker has the right to withdraw their labour"

    Yes, they do, but do they have the right to expect taxpayers to 'pay' them whilst they're exercising that right? I thought that's what Unions were for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I actually agree with this move. I think the power of strikes have been diluted. A lot of people tend to not pay much attention, because striking doesn't mean much if nothing is being sacrificied. There is more respect for people who are committed enough to an ideal to loose pay over it, than for people who are essentially getting a paid day off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    A leopard doesn't change its spots and neither does the Conservative party. This seems to be a lesson once learned and then forgotten by many in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    @126 Clive your comment is false If your on Income based JSA & earn more than £5 you get the excess deducted from your £71 so stop peddling lies. Con-based JSA can't get tax credits & JSA. To get tax credits you need to do 30hrs or 16hrs if on DLA & be over 25yrs. Couples with kids need to do 24hrs You can't work & claim JSA - if you do then you also commiting fraud, get your facts right first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    I fail to understand the logic behind taking tax off people only to give it back to them as tax credits as this makes them dependent on the state. Anyone who is working full time should not have to rely on state handouts to live.

    Come on Miliband, instead of calling the Conservatives childish names why not get behind a policy where everyone who works full time receives a living wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I've never so much drivel, receiving meager benefits is an incentive to strike. What planet are these people living on. How do the Unions benefit from workers receiving working tax credit when they are on strike. I've heard some really stupid arguments but these take the biscuit.You are talking about low paid workers that are brave enough to stand up for their rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @lacoaster - Tube drivers and train drivers are the strikers who've had most impact on me and they're certainly not "low-paid"; their reasons for striking are always dubious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    "...The govt are intent on maintaining a class of serfs..."


    Serfs were actually quite well-off, compared with today's wage-slaves.

    They mostly had secure tenure of farmland, even though they had to do some productive work on that, or other land, for the feudal lord in return. (There may have been other duties too, such as saying prayers for him).

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    It seems all Steven Hester of RBS needs do to ensure his employers (ie we the taxpayer) pay him his bonuses and increase his pay is to threaten to withdraw his labour. Yet when anyone else attempts todo that they are accused of abuse of power and restrictive practises. Similarly with other CEOs whose remuneration is rising ever faster whilst delivering poor shareholder value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Never the mind the fact that this is outright discrimination, lets consider just how philosophically inconsistent this policy is. Choice, as he puts it, should not be supported by the state; therefore, he should withdraw all state subsidy from the private sector; after all it's their choice to be in business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    My god you would think the gov had stopped paying all benefits .

    Instead they have stopped a small subsidy to an antisocial behaviour.

    Calm down dears .

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Starvation into submission! Every worker has the right to withdraw their labour. It is ultimately, the only means we have of standing up for our rights. This is yet more proof of the the Con's desire to return to the days of Maggie and the Minner's Strike. The goverment is alright Jack, and the rest of us be damned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Unfortunately this new legislation won't affect Tube drivers whose pay is already so bloated they earn almost double starting Nurses. And yet they STILL strike when someone farts in the cabin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    144. John
    no, you have misunderstood. wtc is only a top-up to a certain level of income (£13k p/a). so for e.g a person who receives £12k of earnings would receive £1k of top-up. if a person went on strike all year and lost all their £12k earnings, they wouldn't get it all paid to them in wtc, just the £1k top-up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    As I'm not part of a union maybe someone could enlighten me:

    What are your union contributions paying for? Shouldn't they be used to subsidise the pay of those who choose to go on strike?

    The problem is with voting for strikes only the people who care actually vote. So with a 20% turnout the vote will more often than not be yes to strike.. therefore voting should be compulsory for all members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Oh dear @weemo, you actually believe you will fair better under labour? Labour: The government that sponsors boom or bust by spending money like its going out of fashion
    Conservatives: The accountants charged with balancing the books
    LibDems: the middle one - clumsy and underachieving
    Green party: the idealists
    Big business: The ones actually pulling the strings including the noose on your neck


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