Sep 7 2012
The leader of the UK's biggest trade union has warned of a fresh wave of coordinated strikes because of continuing anger over cuts to pay and pensions which was leading the country on a "path to poverty".
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said there was a "real likelihood" of more industrial action before the end of the year, following last November's huge walkout by public sector workers over the Government's controversial pension reforms.
The pensions issue remained a "festering sore" among workers in the health service, education and civil service and could erupt again in the coming months, he said.
Speaking on the eve of the annual TUC Congress, which opens in Brighton on Sunday, Mr McCluskey also called for a radical change of direction to lift the UK out of recession.
Unite will press next week for a £1 an hour increase in the national minimum wage to boost low-paid workers' spending power, and for a cap on energy bills to protect families from higher prices this winter. "Our message is growth and social justice and opposition to the Government's path to poverty," he said.
A recent survey of 350,000 Unite members showed that one in eight were turning to loan companies to make ends meet every month, landing them with spiralling debts.
"It is frightening that so many workers are having to use loan sharks because it means there is a debt disease spreading across the economy. The minimum wage should increase because if low-paid workers received an extra £40 a week they would spend it, not put it into some fund in the Cayman Islands.
"The Government should also be spending up to £6 billion to build 100,000 new houses, which would put thousands of construction workers back in a job."
Mr McCluskey said resistance to the Government's policies was "long term", predicting that protests will increase as the next general election gets closer.
Calls are expected to made at the TUC Congress for coordinated strikes, which Mr McCluskey said he will support. The Unite leader has previously backed civil disobedience, and said communities across the country will be "shocked" when the full extent of public sector cuts becomes known.