BRITAIN’S LEADING PACIFIST NETWORK has criticised plans to deploy military personnel to do the work of striking paramedics and border staff. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said the plan involves an expansion of military power into civilian life, and undermines the right to strike that is part of a healthy civilian democracy.

It was confirmed on Sunday 18 December that 1,200 members of the armed forces will be deployed during ambulance and border staff strikes in the next fortnight. With the UK government maintaining the fourth highest military budget in the world, the PPU urged ministers to instead divert military expenditure to hard-pressed public services and to make realistic pay offers.

The PPU backed comments by Unison’s Head of Health, Sara Gorton, who said that the military are “no substitute” for trained staff and welcomed the Welsh government’s decision not to use military personnel for frontline ambulance services in Wales. The organisation has also has offered to support members of the armed forces who refuse to obey orders to break strikes.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), said: “If ministers really want to stop the strikes, they should be engaging in real negotiations and ruling out real-terms pay cuts, rather than wasting billions on the fourth highest military budget in the world.

“In the last 15 years or so, militarism has been marching into more and more areas of civilian society, from the sharp rise in military visits to schools to the creation of events such as Armed Forces Day.

“Using troops to break strikes will further entrench everyday militarism, damage civilian society and undermine attempts to settle workers’ grievances.

“Many troops are paid even less than the workers whose strikes they will be ordered to break – precisely because military personnel are banned from striking or even joining unions. The armed forces deny the most basic rights to their own members, even while they are deployed to suppress the rights of others.”

* Source: Peace Pledge Union