Union leaders are threatening to plunge the nation into a winter of discontent, with two million workers walking out. But politicians have slammed those planning to strike, suggesting their actions are damaging the economy’s ability to bounce back.
Up to 1.9 million public sector staff are set to take action or be balloted in the coming weeks, including Unite, Unison and GMB union members. Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady warned her union was co-ordinating industrial action.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We need an uprising. We need a wave of synchronised, coordinated strike action.”
Thousands of union workers have staged walk-outs across the country in recent months. Rail staff, barristers, postal workers, dock workers and BT employees have all been involved in industrial action.
Nurses, doctors and teachers are also being balloted on whether to join the picket line.
Public and Commercial Services Union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We want to co-ordinate action. We want to have a joint national day of action with any union that has a live mandate.
“But a one-day strike isn’t going to cut it. We want a coalition of the willing to offer solidarity to other unions and work imaginatively with them to have win after win after win.
“We want a surge of momentum to show our strength, to win disputes, to stop anti-union legislation and show our pensioners, our sick and disabled there’s a very different type of country.”
Veteran Tory Sir Peter Bottomley on Tuesday hit out at strikers and union chiefs.
The Father of the House of Commons, 78, said: “I’d say to all the people saying, ‘Let’s all go on strike’, how does going on strike help the economy come back? It doesn’t. Let’s try to work together, let’s unglue ourselves from the streets, and let the economy work in a way that adjusts to the situation, and also makes it possible that we’re all better off in a year or two.”
The original Winter of Discontent took place in the late 1970s, when both private and public sectors demanded pay rises.
A Government spokesman said that ministers “will do whatever they can to minimise disruption”.
Campaigners attack fat-cat union bosses
Union barons were branded hypocrites on Tuesday, for “strutting about” on six-figure salaries while holding the nation to ransom.
A “rich list” by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) revealed they raked in an average of £152,000 last year.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea, whose total package was £225,891, was named the top earner.
Nine bosses at education unions were said to have taken home £1,404,252 between them.
And Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary, Dave Ward, earned a total of £142,485.
John O’Connell, of the TPA, said: “These public sector red barons are dooming millions to misery, but are doing very well indeed as some of Britain’s biggest earners.”
“Union bosses should not be threatening to bring the country to its knees while strutting about on six-figure salaries.”
The CWU said: “The general secretary’s wage is decided by members voting at the conference. We would challenge any CEO to let workers vote on how they are paid.”