Union anger over Government cuts escalates with strike option

Unions were divided over the motion at the TUC conference. Photo:

The motion was on the "consideration and practicalities of a General Strike."

And by a sizeable majority unions meeting in Brighton at the TUC conference supported it.

It does not mean Britain is heading for its first general strike in 86 years (the last was in 1926) but the official policy of the TUC - the unions' umbrella organisation - is to investigate whether one is feasible and legal.

Five unions spoke in support of the motion: Prison Officers (proposed the motion); RMT (seconded the motion); PCS; CWU; Unite.

Several unions however urged delegates to vote against the move: Prospect; NASUWT; ATL; BALPA; Usdaw.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was booed for his support of the Government's pay policy.

The RMT's Bob Crow said:

If they are throwing spears at us, we need to to put every shield up to support ourselves.

Steve Gillan, the General Secretary of the Prison Officers' Association the conference that "when threatened, we must threaten back." He added:

This government will only stop chasing us when we stop running.

But the unions which opposed the motion called it a "distraction."

The General Secretary of shopworkers union Usdaw was booed when he announced he would not support the call. John Hannett said:

Let's not give our opponents the biggest stick to beat us with.

Although the TUC will now contemplate a General Strike, senior leaders are understood to have already concluded one can't happen.

It would mean every worker in every company would have to find a valid dispute with their employers. Striking in support of workers in another company is legal.

The TUC leaders do stress, however, that the motion illustrates the depth of anger among workers and their union leaders over the scale of the cuts and the pay freeze imposed by the Government on public sector workers.