Unions ready for return to 1970s strikes

UNIONS are preparing to plunge Britain into a period of 1970s-style industrial unrest with a spring general strike.

The general secretaries of Britain’s unions will attend a Trade Union Congress (TUC) meeting on 28 January to discuss the possibility and mechanics of bringing Britain to a halt through coordinated industrial action.

The unions hope to bring unrest to the country in a protest over a two-year public sector pay freeze, job losses and announcements from the government on pensions reform.

The strikes are planned to take place around the time of chancellor George Osborne’s 23 March budget, with plans for a protest march through London on 26 March.

The final findings of a report into pensions reform by ex-Labour cabinet minister John Hutton, also due in March, could inflame tensions between the government and the unions.

The former work and pensions secretary recommended a 3 per cent increase on workers’ pension contributions in an October interim report, in a move that angered union leaders.

Yet the threat of action has incensed the City, with business groups saying it could damage the fragile economic recovery.

A spokesperson for the CBI said yesterday: “Strikes prevent ordinary people going about their daily lives, whether they are getting to work or getting the kids to school. This type of action could also harm the economic recovery at what is a very critical time.”

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of marketing agency WPP Group yesterday warned of a “bumpy period” for businesses around springtime. He was speaking on Sky News.

Labour leader Ed Miliband joined growing opposition to union-led industrial action yesterday.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, he said: “What we are not going to do under my leadership is go back to the heroic failures of the 1980s.

“Strikes are a last resort and a sign of failure on both sides... they are not the way you change a government, the way you change a government is through the ballot box.”