UK union warns of massive strikes

2011-06-18 13:46

London - The leader of Britain's biggest public sector union has threatened to unleash the biggest wave of strikes in nearly 100 years to force the government to back down on planned pension reforms and deep spending cuts.

The coalition government says it must push ahead with tackling a record peacetime budget deficit or risk suffering a debt crisis similar to those seen in Greece and Ireland.

It expects about 330 000 public jobs to go as it cuts spending by £81bn over the next four years.

Dave Prentis, who as head of Unison represents 1.4m public workers, said the state sector's share of the spending cuts was too big and he warned of indefinite rolling strikes to make the government soften its austerity programme.

"It will be the biggest since the general strike," Prentis said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper on Saturday. More than three million workers took part in the 1926 general strike in support of the coal miners' ultimately failed attempt to resist wage cuts.

Railways, docks, steelworks and many other industries were disrupted during the nine-day strike. However, its impact was blunted by months of government planning and the use of thousands of police and soldiers to keep the country moving.

Current anger over the public spending cuts is growing and union members were determined to keep up pressure on the government, Prentis added. The next wave of strikes will be more successful than the long-running and sometimes violent miners' strikes in 1984-85 that ended in victory for Margaret Thatcher, Conservative prime minister at the time, he said.

"It won't be the miners' strike," Prentis told the Guardian. "We are going to win."

Trades Union Congress leader Brendan Barber said he and Prentis both still wanted to resolve the dispute through talks with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

About 750 000 workers including teachers and job centre staff have already said they will stage coordinated action this month in what would be Britain's worst stoppages for decades.

Finance minister George Osborne has repeatedly said the country must cut spending and raise taxes if it wants to retain the confidence of lenders and the money markets.

While students clashed with police during demonstrations over higher tuition fees late last year, Britain has avoided the violent demonstrations against austerity measures seen in other European countries.

However, pressure is growing on many British workers from a combination of weak economic growth, higher taxes, muted wage rises and inflation running at 4.5%, more than double the central bank's target.

  • BernieK - 2011-06-18 14:23

    And? What now?

      SaintBruce - 2011-06-18 16:41

      Quite brilliant - by having a big strike the UK Government gets what it wants! Genius. You see the workers stop working so no need to select who would lose a job, they walk out anyway and 1.4 million of them instead of only 330 000. Next - the Union is obliged to pay the strikers 'strike pay' ( not like in SA where who knows where the union fees go?) until this money runs out! The UK Taxpayer and the Government wins both ways with reduced spending and a weakend Union. Do a Maggie I say - bring in the Army to keep things running! BTW - a study in the mid 2000's showed that the UK pension industry was already over 90 Billion Pounds UNDERFUNDED! The implosion of their Socialist policies is around the corner as it hurts to pay people who don't want to work (Dole system). Any Brit with Pounds retiring gets out of the UK quickly -they can't afford to stay.

  • BernieK - 2011-06-18 14:33

    And this is the big problem with socialism. The UK under the labour party was quickly becoming a socialist society with BLOATED government. The UK suffers from the fallout of the Liberal thinking of that country. The UK is also a big contributor of Aid to Africa and that money just disappears down a big black hole. Why is the UK throwing money away? This strike is not going to solve the problem but only to worsen it. Wait and see. It is unbelievable that a first world country can be so stupid and that includes Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy. They get what they deserve and the price is very very steep. The ONLY solution is to encourage entrepreneurship and loosen the grip of the unions.

      spacemonkey - 2011-06-18 14:48

      The US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission listed the following reasons for the subprime mortgage crisis which led to the current global recession: "the crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels." Financial institutions get bailed out after their failures; the man in the street loses his job or takes a pay cut. I can see why they're p*ssed.

  • Jonathan - 2011-06-18 14:39

    Send in the Iron Lady. Thatcher will decimate these idiot unions. Wish we had someone here in SA like her

  • k1dbl4ck - 2011-06-18 14:50

    1 x $500,000 Tomahawk Missile (Libya got about 280 so far) could pay 10 public servants for a year. Thus the Libyan "no fly zone" has cost 2800 public servant jobs.. thus far.

      spacemonkey - 2011-06-18 14:55

      I wonder if that's the wasted aid money BernieK is referring to?

      Povo - 2011-06-20 11:11

      Imagine how many of the blood sucking piblic servants with their inflation linked pensions, their golden handshakes and 40 hur work weeks you could take out with one Tomahawk missile! Can I push the button, please?

  • Brieuse - 2011-06-18 16:34

    They say it'll be the biggest every year

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