The army could be brought in to help with expected strike disruption over the Christmas period, Tory party chair Nadhim Zahawi has said.
Zahawi said that members of the army may have to start “driving ambulances” and work on the borders as NHS staff and Border Force officers prepare to start industrial action.
Many key sector workers – including in transport, health and freight – have voted for strike action over the December period as unions hold out for inflation-linked pay rises.
Members of the Royal College of Nurses will walk off the job for two days in December as they ask for a 17 per cent pay rise, while fresh rail strikes are set to also disrupt Christmas travel schedules.
Zahawi told Sky News that the government could bring in the Army to break some of the strikes.
“We’ve got to try and minimise disruption,” he said.
“We’re looking at the military, we’re looking at a specialist response force … surge capacity.”
The government is trying to convince striking workers to step back from the brink and continue negotiating with their employers.
Union bosses are arguing that their members cannot accept real-terms wage cuts – inflation is running at 10 per cent – after years of stagnant wage growth.
Zahawi warned of union pay claims turning into a 1970s-style wage-price spiral.
“If you chase inflation or above inflation, in some cases pay, then you will embed inflation for longer and hurt the most vulnerable,” he said.
“In fact, our message to the unions is to say, you know, this is not a time to strike.
“This is time to try and negotiate. In the absence of that, it’s important for the government. It’s the right and responsible thing to do, to have contingency plans in place.”