The strike busters: Secret plans drawn up to tackle threat of a mass walkout

A secret ‘war plan’ to prevent a general strike has been drawn up by ministers – with thousands of union-busting workers lined up to cross militant picket lines.

A unit has been set up in the Cabinet Office to prevent Britain grinding to a standstill in the event of mass public sector walkouts.

Officials have conducted ‘war games’ to ensure that strike breakers are available to run vital facilities such as the Tube and energy hotspots such as power stations.

Transport managers and prison bosses have been ordered to organise agency workers and teams of managers to cross picket lines amid fears of a nationwide summer of industrial action.

Ministers believe militant union bosses are planning to bring Britain to a halt with coordinated strikes on roads, railways, and throughout the public services.

The unit, run by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has analysed the workforce at thousands of prisons, schools, hospitals, railway stations, bus depots and energy facilities to work out where the most militant union staff are based.

Managers at HM Revenue & Customs and the benefits system have been told to prepare contingency plans to keep tax and benefits money flowing.

The plans, drawn up in utmost secrecy, are the coalition’s attempt to emulate Margaret Thatcher’s preparations ahead of the miners’ strike in 1984.

The Tory prime minister resisted militant miners because she had stockpiled more than a year’s supply of coal to prevent the National Union of Mineworker’s holding the government to ransom.

Ministers are conscious it would be extremely difficult to keep every public service functioning in the event of coordinated strikes.

But they have tried to minimise the threat by arranging private deals with bosses at the key facilities where spending cuts could lead to mass walkouts.

A senior government source said: ‘We’ve been war-gaming this in great detail, looking at all the scenarios and working out where we are most vulnerable.

‘We are looking at who we are p***ing off and when we are p***ing them off. We need to be ready for everything.’

Ministers believe coordinated strikes are likely if negotiations over public sector pensions break down this summer. Coalition ministers were shocked to discover Labour had done nothing to prepare for nationwide strike action.

They are now studying the recent underground and British Airways strikes, where private sector contractors could be brought in at short notice to limit the effectiveness of mass walkouts.

Ministers have concluded that while some unions will compromise, Bob Crow’s RMT rail union and Mark Serwotka’s Public and Commercial Services union are keen on a confrontation.

Union bosses met at the TUC last month to discuss coordinated strike action and Mr Crow has promised a ‘bare knuckle fight’ over public services. The unions will lead a national protest against cuts in London on March 26.

The government source said: ‘The militants like Serwotka and Crow want to coordinate attacks so you get transport strikes and walkouts in prisons and the health service – all timed to coincide with a time when we have p****d off the police so they only do the bare minimum to help.’

A spokesman for the PCS admitted: ‘We’re still in talks with other unions about industrial action, should it become necessary.’

But he accused the government of ‘building up for a massive confrontation, which is incredibly irresponsible’.

Mr Crow said: ‘Francis Maude’s so-called battle plan is fantasy politics. If he thinks playing a glorified game of battleships is going to stave off public anger about cuts to jobs and public services while the bankers are scooping a £6billion bonus jackpot then he needs a class A reality check.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Public sector workers will be aghast to hear that the Cabinet Office is spending time, effort and resources working out how to frustrate possible industrial action in the public sector, rather than focusing on how to avoid it in the first place.’

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