BRITISH unions yesterday gave notice that up to a quarter of the country’s workforce could go on strike in November in protest at the government’s public sector pensions reform.
The Trades Union Congress, a group of unions that represent 6.5m workers, voted unanimously in favour of industrial action yesterday. Leaders chose the 30 November as the planned date for coordinated action at a meeting at the TUC conference in London.
Unite, the Fire Brigades’ Union and the GMB have already started balloting members over strike action in response to the planned rise in pension contributions from those who work for the state.
Even Unison, which represents 1.1m workers and decided not to take part in June’s one-day strike, said it will ask members to vote on industrial action.
The government is seeking to raise contributions by three per cent from April next year to save more than £1bn in 2012-2013.
Unions and ministers have been trying to negotiate a compromise since the details were laid out in Lord Hutton’s report in March.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber warned that a day of strikes in November could mark the start of a wave of industrial action over the winter if a deal is not reached.
“The intention will be to take the call for pensions justice for both public and private sector workers to every corner of the land on that day in the biggest trade union mobilisation in a generation,” he said.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government hopes to come to an agreement without the need for strikes.
“It is extremely disappointing that the TUC is calling on union members to lose a day’s pay and go on strike while serious talks, which were set up at their request, are very much still ongoing,” he said.
Labour shadow Treasury minister Angela Eagle called on the government to step up talks to avoid any industrial action. “I urge all sides to step back from a confrontation that will further harm the economy and make life tougher still for millions of British families,” she said.