British unions back coordinated strikes against cuts

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Britain's trade unions voted Monday to support coordinated industrial action in protest at austerity cuts by Prime Minister David Cameron's government.

The motion was backed by an overwhelming majority of delegates at the annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) after union leaders urged them to "stand up and fight" and said strikes were "inevitable" unless ministers changed course.

It had support from Britain's biggest union Unite as well as other major players such as UNISON and the GMB, which represent hundreds of thousands of workers.

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), said unions had a choice to "lay down or stand up and fight."

"We'd be fools not to call major action because if there's a concentrated attack on us, there needs to be a concentrated response from this congress," he told the audience in Manchester, northwest England, to loud applause.

Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union added: "Industrial action is inevitable unless the government are prepared to change direction."

He said unions needed to "start the planning now" for action.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, accused the government of "taking a chainsaw to our public services."

The motion urged the TUC's general council to "support and coordinate campaigning and joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, in opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services."

This year's TUC has been dubbed "the most important for a generation" by one union boss with delegates furious at the extent of cuts set to be imposed by Cameron's coalition government, led by the centre-right Conservatives.

A total of 600,000 public sector jobs could eventually go and ministers have warned government departments to prepare reductions of up to 40 percent.

Ministers will give full details on how they intend to reduce borrowing -- forecast to hit 149 billion pounds (180 billion euros, 230 billion dollars) in the year to March 2011 -- in a spending review on October 20.

The cuts will be implemented from April next year.

© 2010 AFP

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