The head of the RMT union has called for a general strike and co-ordinated community direct action in protest at proposed government cuts as ministers brace themselves for a summer or autumn of discontent.
General secretary of the transport union Bob Crow issued a “call to arms” at the RMT’s annual conference in Aberdeen yesterday, proposing that trade unions form alliances with community groups, campaigns and pensioners organisations to take direct action “in the biggest show of united resistance since the success of the anti-poll tax movement”.
“This ConDem administration has thrown down the biggest challenge to the trade union movement since Margaret Thatcher took on the National Union of Mineworkers,” he said. “The trade unions can only fight these attacks on the front foot.”
He believes that the only way forward is to undertake a “sustained campaign of generalised strikes across both the public and private sectors and community direct action to defend public services in the teeth of the fiscal fascism being unleashed by this ConDem government”.
Other union leaders have already threatened to bring the country to a standstill over government proposals to cut Whitehall budgets by 25% in an attempt to reduce the UK’s £155 billion deficit.
The civil service union the PCS has called for coordinated action between unions, while the local government union Unison is also drawing up plans to oppose the measures. But this is the first time that such widespread unrest has been suggested.
The unions are furious about proposed cuts to public sector jobs and pensions, although Prime Minister David Cameron is believed to be planning to use pensions as a bargaining chip in a bid to soften trade union unrest after Conservative trade union envoy Richard Balfe advised that they could be used as a “lollipop”.
According to the Daily Telegraph, union leaders may be invited to participate in a review to be undertaken by former Labour minister John Hutton over the future of public sector pensions. He is believed to be evaluating whether to recommend that staff increase the level of their contributions.