Million public sector staff threaten winter walkout

PLANS have been drawn up by trade unions for a winter of strike action by more than a million public sector workers.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th September 2011, 6:18 pm

The walkouts would be in protest at planned changes to pensions, which will see contributions increase by 3.2 per cent.

An announcement of co-ordinated action – potentially including the three biggest public sector unions, Unison, Unite and the GMB – was set to be made following a debate at the TUC Congress in London today, when unions will line up to attack the government.

A senior union leader today reportedly confirmed that the action, which could start by late November, will go beyond a single day and will be “sustained”.

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“The idea that we will have a one-day dispute, marching around town with a few flags . . . ain’t going to do it,” he said.

When asked if there would be a number of one-day national strikes, he replied “yep”.

“In some areas there will be two or three days,” he said. “In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.”

Widespread ballots for action are expected to be held, adding to support for strikes already given by civil servants, teachers and lecturers, heralding the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest for decades.

To prevent lower paid union workers suffering hardship through lost earnings, the unions are planning a major fundraising drive.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who is leading negotiations for the government, said he was not trying to provoke unions into action.

He said: “People who are struggling to pay their bills and paying more towards public sector pensions in many cases than they are paying towards their own pensions will be mightily fed up if there is unnecessary strike action.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband was heckled yesterday when he told the TUC Congress that strikes over public sector pensions were a mistake.

He said: “What we need now is meaningful negotiation to prevent further confrontation over this autumn. Strikes are always the consequence of failure. Failure on all sides.”

Mary Bousted, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she had been proud to join a strike in June by teachers and civil servants and that the government was not prepared to negotiate a deal over its pension reforms.