Union strikes could hit Thurrock hard

ONE of the UK’s biggest trade unions says pension reform plans could trigger the biggest wave of industrial action in Thurrock since the General Strike in the 1920s.

Unison leader Dave Prentis said unions were prepared for “sustained and indefinite” strikes over proposed changes to public sector pensions.

The TUC – the Trades Union Congress – said Mr Prentis was reflecting “real anger” across the union movement.

But Business Secretary Vince Cable said most trade unions wanted to negotiate.

“It’s a very complex, difficult issue but there’s got to be reform otherwise the burden falls on taxpayers and future generations,” he said.

“We have to do something about it and it has to be done through constructive negotiation and I think that’s where most trade unionists want to be.”

Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said unions would make a “colossal mistake” if they rejected the coalition government’s plan.

Mr Prentis told The Guardian he still hoped to negotiate a settlement.

Unison’s 1.3 million members, who work for local authorities, the NHS, colleges and the police, have not yet been balloted on industrial action.

Mr Prentis said if strikes did happen they would be the biggest since the General Strike of 1926 and, unlike the miners’ strike in 1984/5, the unions would win.

Unison is one of the UK’s largest trade unions with 1.3 million members

They include frontline staff and managers in local authorities, the NHS, the police, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector

Last year 137,000 – or 375 per day – new members were recruited, according to Unison’s website

Public sector workers are already facing heavy job cuts and a pay freeze.

Mr Prentis said: “I strongly believe that one day of industrial action will not change anyone’s mind in government… we are prepared for rolling action over an indefinite period.”

He also called on the Labour Party to support Unison’s battle against the pension reforms.

Mr Prentis, whose union is affiliated to Labour, said: “We want our Labour Party to be the voice of opposition. We’re worried that some of the senior people in the party still have to make statements as if they are in power, not opposition.

“If the Labour Party stays quiet that will be an issue,” he added.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said, like Mr Prentis and Dr Bousted, he wanted to see the matter resolved by negotiation with the government.

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