Military says 'it's just not right' as soldiers may give up Christmas to cover strikes

The Government has said army staff, civil servants and volunteers are being trained to cover jobs as workers prepare to go on strikes this festive season. Military figures have wanted that the hundreds of soldiers covering various roles may risk weakening the “operational capability” of the military’s response to threats.

On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that there is currently tension in the military around the prospect that soldiers will not be able to enjoy their Christmas break and will have to cover for workers going on strikes, which includes NHS workers and Border Control workers.

One senior military figure told the Telegraph: “You’ve only got to look at a private soldier on £22,000 a year and whose pay scales have not kept up with inflation for the last decade, having to give up Christmas, or come straight off operations, to cover for people who want 19 percent [salary increases] and are already paid in excess of what he or she would be, and it’s just not right.

“The Government’s first lever it reaches for every time there is any difficulty – whether it’s floods, strikes, all the rest of it – is the Armed Forces, as opposed to it being the last resort.”

Another military source added it was hypocritical to “use public servants who receive one of the smallest pay awards and legally can’t strike, and have no independent advocate body, to cover for public servants who do”.

It comes at a time that Border Force staff at airports announced on Wednesday they will be striking for four days over Christmas, as they will take place from December 23 to 26 and December 28 to 31.

Airports affected by the strikes include Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Manchester.

More than 10,000 flights are expected to land at airports on the strikes days, and airlines are being told by officials to cancel up to 30 percent of flights to prevent chaos over the Christmas time period, according to The Times.

Other workers will also be striking this December, including nurses who plan to strike on December 15 and 20, and ambulance workers who will be striking on December 21.

READ MORE: Christmas travel chaos as Border Force to strike

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has threatened to ban emergency workers from striking as part of new laws to focus on public sector strikes.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time, he said: “Hard-working families right now in this country are facing challenges. The Government has been reasonable.

“It’s accepted the recommendations of an independent pay review body, giving pay rises in many cases higher than the private sector.

“But if the union leaders continue to be unreasonable, then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public.

“That’s why, since I became Prime Minister, I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption.”

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Around 2,000 military personnel are currently undergoing training to cover for Border Force officers.

They may also cover ambulance workers, but an official request has not been made yet, reports suggest.

The Fire Brigade Union may also vote for industrial action, and servicemen and women may cover for firefighters as well if the strikes take place.

Military personnel told the Telegraph that while it was “unreasonable to say you can’t use soldiers when the country needs them”, the Government must take into account the Army’s size, as it is about to be cut by 10,000 soldiers over the next few years.

The source said: “If you do want the Army for that, then you’ll need a bigger Army.”

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