Cable risks a split with his line on strikes

BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable said yesterday he did not think it would be necessary to reform strike legislation and stressed that he had no plans to do so.

“We’re not looking at that, and we’re not planning it, and we certainly don’t want to go down that road,” he said on Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5Live. “The right to strike is an important civil liberty and we defend that,” he added.

Other Conservatives, including Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, have said the government should toughen strike laws so that a minimum threshold of union members would need to back a strike to make it legal.

Cable’s comments come as the government and trade union leaders prepare to meet today for last ditch talks to stave off industrial action.

Around 750,000 public sector staff including teachers plan to walk out on Thursday, protesting against Coalition plans to make them pay more towards their pensions and retire later.

Education Secretary Michael Gove , for his part, inflamed the situation over the weekend by urging parents to help keep schools open if teachers do walk out, adding he was worried teachers risked their professional reputations if they were “involved in this sort of militancy”.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is due to take national industrial action for the first time in 127 years.

The proposed reforms, based on a review by a former government minister from the Labour party, Lord Hutton, would see pensions based on final salaries replaced with pensions based on average earnings.

Employees would contribute more and retire later.

Crunch talks with ministers are scheduled for Monday, with some unions billing them as the government's last chance to avoid strikes.