British minister booed for strike warning

6th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's business minister Vince Cable was booed by trade union activists Monday as he warned that increased strike action could lead to stronger legislation on walkouts.

Unions representing public sector workers are threatening to hold large-scale strikes later this month, possibly on June 30, to protest the government's programme of public spending cuts.

Cable warned that widespread disruption could force him to toughen laws governing industrial action.

The minister's speech to the GMB union's annual conference in Brighton, southeast England, was interrupted several times by shouts and calls from delegates.

Cable said he feared the day of strike action this month would lead to calls for "widespread disruption".

"Despite occasional blips, I know that strike levels remain historically low, especially in the private sector. On that basis, and assuming this pattern continues, the case for changing strike law is not compelling.

"However, should the position change, and should strikes impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric, the pressure on us to act would ratchet up.

"That is something which both you, and certainly I, would wish to avoid."

His comments sparked loud jeers from the audience.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the CBI employers' organisation have already called for tougher trade union laws.

Johnson wants the law change so that strikes are only permitted when they have the backing of a majority of union members.

There are concerns at the weak growth in the British economy following downgraded forecasts and suggestions from a senior OECD official that the government may have to slow the pace of its spending cuts.

© 2011 AFP

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