Army on standby for strike

THE Army has been put on standby to run Britain’s borders amid fears Wednesday’s mass strike over pensions will paralyse public services.

Up to 18,000 immigration officials will join the industrial action, which is set to close up to two-thirds of schools, trigger chaos at ports and airports and disrupt services ranging from refuse to tax collection.

The coalition has told soldiers and civil servants they may have to help out after airports operator BAA warned of 12-hour delays for passengers at Heathrow and the need to keep people “held” on planes.

Yesterday tensions increased as a Treasury source dismissed as “bogus” a claim by Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, that Ministers had misrepresented the income due to public sector workers in retirement.

Two million people are expected to join the walkout over cost-cutting measures that compel them to pay more for their pensions and to retire later. Talks, which began a year ago, have been stalled since 2 November.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, called the strike “stupid and wrong” and George Osborne, the Chancellor, said that the reforms were a “good deal” that were fair to public sector workers and taxpayers.

Richard Simcox from the PCSU, told City A.M.: “Our members... don’t want their pay frozen, jobs cut and pensions raised to pay off a deficit they didn’t cause.”