British unions vow coordinated fight against cuts

28th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

British trade union leaders said Friday they had agreed to work together to fight against government plans to slash public spending and warned of possible strike action ahead.

"The government's agenda is doing huge damage to the economy and vital public services," said Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the umbrella Trades Union Congress (TUC).

"Today's meeting was to consider the appropriate industrial response to the volatile cocktail of issues that face union members across the public sector -- the pay freeze, job cuts and attacks on pensions.

"No-one is talking about a general strike, but of course these attacks on our members could well give rise to industrial action around specific disputes."

Barber was speaking after talks in London with union leaders representing public and private workers, over how to respond to deep cuts introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government.

"Today's meeting showed a clear determination for unions to work together on industrial issues including, as a last resort, industrial action when members support it," the TUC leader said.

Government plans unveiled in October foresee the loss of half a million public sector jobs over four years, as departmental budgets are slashed by a fifth in an attempt to reduce a record budget deficit.

Cameron defended his policy during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, saying: "It's going to be tough but we must see it through."

The TUC has planned a national march in London on March 26 to protest against the cuts and Barber said it would continue to negotiate with the government to get their message across.

Dave Prentis, the leader of the biggest public service union, Unison, denied they were engaged in a political battle against Cameron's Conservatives.

"We are not talking about political action," he told reporters.

"When over half a million of our members are facing losing their jobs, when some of them are facing a four-year pay freeze and some of them are facing privatisation and the loss of their pensions, that's not political."

© 2011 AFP

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