Government set to axe strike worker benefits

Strike and you lose your benefit top-up. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is to introduce a new change to working tax credits. You will no longer be entitled to them if your wages crash because you're on strike.

Could it stop low-paid workers from taking action against their employers?

Benefits docked

"It is totally wrong that the current benefit system compensates workers and tops up their income when they go on strike," claims Duncan Smith. "This is unfair to taxpayers and creates perverse incentives. 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."

The move has been branded petty and vindictive by the TUC. But the IDS changes are pretty small. That's because most people only strike for a day or two maximum, usually. It's rare strikes last much longer. So the underlying amount of cash being potentially lost should be modest.


But the underlying reality for many low-paid workers is that pay packets are shrinking in value in real terms while consultancy fees and boardroom table compensation continue to spiral. In that sense, this move will look mean to many to those earning less than £13,000 a year - and therefore entitled to working tax credits if they strike.

"Workers are always reluctant to strike," says the TUC's General Secretary Brendan Barber, "depriving their families of benefits will leave low paid workers even more vulnerable to bad treatment."

Would the new changes make you think twice before striking? Or how about more strike pay from unions themselves? Let us know.

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