The Government could be facing a sustained campaign of strike action over its plans to reform public sector pensions after the Trades Union Congress unanimously backed a motion calling for coordinated action from unions.
Unison, GMB and Unite this morning confirmed they will ballot 1.65 million members over the action which they want to begin in late November and continue into next summer. The action will involve workers from the NHS, schools, colleges and universities as well as local and central government.
The Government says public sector pensions are unaffordable and must be reformed. Unions says that changes introduced by the previous Labour Government make them affordable in the long-term.
Unions and minister have been in negotiations about further reforms, but speaking at the TUC conference in London this morning, general secretary Brendan Barber (pictured) slammed the Government’s approach to the talks so far for saying “meaningful negotiations require two willing partners”.
He said: “Ministers have to come to the table with new ideas, and in a new spirit, to give those talks a chance to succeed. If those talks cannot make a breakthrough, unions are right and fully justified to plan for action.”
Opening the TUC debate on public sector pensions, Unison general secretary Dave Prentice said his union would ballot its 1.1 million members.
He said: “Now is the time to make our stand. It will be hard. We will be vilified, attacked, set against each other, public versus private, divide and rule. The oldest trick in the book.”
Also speaking at the conference, GMB national secretary for public services Brian Strutton said months of talks between the unions and Government had gone nowhere and that the union would use the strikes to force deal its members were happy with.
He said: “GMB is only one of many unions planning ballots for authority to take industrial action to begin in late November and to be sustained over the winter and into spring and summer of 2012.”