Tuc Leaders Fear That Massive Cuts Will Bring Strikes And Disorder!

RMT busworkers demonstrate outside Fulwell Bus garage in west London against harassment by London United management
RMT busworkers demonstrate outside Fulwell Bus garage in west London against harassment by London United management

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown laid down the gauntlet at the weekend to the TUC Congress, being held in Liverpool.

Downing Street has released excerpts of Brown’s speech to the Congress today, the essence of which is – if the trade unions won’t accept his cuts policy, then they will be faced with the return of the Tories and even bigger cuts.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison – Britain’s biggest public sector trade union – responded to Brown’s provocation by remarking at a press conference on Sunday: ‘In the 1920s, social unrest led to a general strike.

‘In the 1970s, cuts led to civil unrest.

‘If you get inner-city life collapse and you don’t maintain public services, you do get a threat to social cohesion.’

At an eve of Congress press conference, the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber also warned against public spending cuts.

He told reporters in Liverpool: ‘We warn today that public spending cuts will provoke a double-quick, double-dip recession.

‘Unemployment could well exceed four million and it would take many years before there is any chance of returning to anything like full employment.

‘That would scar for life a whole generation of young people.’

Attacking statements by Tory leader Cameron and Shadow Chancellor Osborne, he warned: ‘Spending cuts will hit both public and private sectors.’

He added: ‘A double-dip recession would not just be deeper, also longer.

‘Prolonged mass unemployment would not just do economic damage, but have terrible social effects.

‘I don’t think that Britain is broken, but this will be one way to break it.

‘Last time we suffered slash and burn economics, we had riots in the streets here in Liverpool.

‘I make no prediction that this will happen again, but I do know that prolonged mass unemployment will have terrible effects on social cohesion, family break-up and the nation’s health.’

After his comments about riots in the streets, Barber was asked by reporters at yesterday’s press conference if he thought there would be industrial unrest.

He responded: ‘If there are public spending cuts that will no doubt provoke a response.

‘Industrial unrest arises over when there are specific problems in sectors.

‘There are a number of major issues at the moment, for example the Royal Mail and parts of the fire service.’

Asked if it was the TUC’s policy for the government to help companies who want to use short-time working and temporary lay-offs to help survive the recession, he said: ‘That is right.’

The TUC leader confirmed that he had been having private talks with Tory leader David Cameron and Liberal leader Nick Clegg.

Meanwhile, Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, told Sky TV he was firmly behind Brown.

‘Obviously the policies that Labour are presenting are not resonating with our members,’ he admitted.

‘We need to forcibly point out how we’re going to bring back the lost Labour voters.

‘Our criticisms aren’t the same as the criticisms that we see very much in the media and coming from all sides.

‘I want to see Gordon Brown as prime minister after the next election, not just up to it, and to do so we need to point out those things Gordon needs to be doing to reconnect and bring back those lost Labour voters, the people that aren’t voting Tory but are actually not voting at all or voting for other parties.’

Simpson was asked: ‘According to opinion polls the Tories are on course to win the election and Gordon Brown certainly seems to think that’s a problem. “Don’t risk your members’ jobs or the nation’s future with the Tories, he’s going to say to you on Tuesday next’’.’

‘Well, he’s right,’ Simpson replied.

Simpson went on to add: ‘It’s not about lurching to the left at all, it’s about addressing the serious concern on jobs, on homes and pensions, and doing it in a way that ordinary people understand.

‘I think we’ve lost the way a little bit. It’s clear that members are not seeing a ready connection to the party that actually best represents their interests.

‘They wonder why things are not done more quickly, why things are not done more firmly and the reasons I think are fairly obvious, which is why I talk about looking hesitant, it’s because there are those in the Labour Party who want to pull back the old “New Labour’’ route and I think that the “Old Labour’’ strategy is the one that’s actually required and so do the members.

‘And if Gordon came out swinging and punching now, arguing for those issues, which generally speaking he believes in, then I think that the Tories are in for a bit of a surprise, because we’ll connect with our voters and we will not lose the next election.’

Asked by the Sky TV reporter about the ‘general recognition that in the next parliament we won’t be able to carry on as we have done before, that we’re going to have to cut back and that there’s going to need to be public sector reform’, Simpson said: ‘I don’t think people are stupid.

‘I think people understand that there has to have been investment in the economy to fight us out of the recession and that now is apparently working and it’s working worldwide, and in no small measure down to the lead that Gordon Brown’s shown, both in this country first of all and then on a global scale.

‘People understand that and understand that there will be problems now about the level of public debt and they understand that things might be more difficult in future than in the past, but the difference is how you tackle that.

‘A socially conscious Labour government concerned about people and jobs and having to do things, but doing it with a social approach, as opposed to the old Conservatives, which we know are lurking there, who will just come in axing jobs, axing services, because the people that they represent don’t depend on those circumstances.

‘They’re the ones who can go and buy their services, so they’ll not be bothered about whether waiting lists grow, or whether hospital workers lose their jobs, or public services are cut here, there and everywhere, because it doesn’t bother them.

‘And whatever they say, that’s their answer, and I hope that people don’t have to have the experience to find out that what I’m saying is probably very true.’

Asked: ‘Would you like to see a change of Labour leader before the next election?’, Simpson replied: ‘Absolutely not. There’s only one person to lead the Labour Party, that’s Gordon Brown.’

Asked if the unions should stop funding the Labour Party, possibly running other candidates, ‘Workers Alliance’ candidates or something like that ‘to really stand for what you believe in’, Simpson said: ‘Well, this isn’t a criticism of other people in the movement. I once told Bob Crow he would never see me or my predecessor attacking him, his union or any other union in the media, and I’m not about to start now.

‘But what I do say is this: you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a genius to work out that if there isn’t a Labour government, it’s a Conservative government.

‘So if you don’t vote Labour or don’t vote at all, what you’re doing is installing a Tory government.

‘No other party is going to come from the outfield and sweep to power – it’s absolute nonsense to believe that – so it’s clear anyone who’s arguing don’t support Labour, they’re actually in truth, whether they intended to or not, they’re supporting the Conservatives and they’ll live to regret the day that that happens.

‘And if they’re trade unionists, well I have to say, think again Whittington and turn because it’s the wrong time to be doing that.

‘The chips are down, there’s a clear agenda to do in the government, to do in Gordon Brown.’

He added: ‘The fact that unemployment is lower in this country than in others, maybe not the best of jobs and nobody knows that more than Gordon, that we’ve got to have good jobs, well paid jobs, not just “MacJobs’’, but under the Labour government unemployment is lower.’

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka warned at a civil service union press conference in Liverpool that all the reports and speculation in the media about ‘the public/private divide’ were ‘preparing the ground for a massive onslaught on the public sector’.

He added: ‘After the election all parties are going to make massive cuts.

‘We are calling for talks about the unions seriously working together and taking joint industrial action.

‘We want to talk to all our colleagues.

‘We are already in our union having to prepare for an onslaught on pay and conditions by the present Labour government.

‘The government is planning a massive cut in civil service compensation.

‘Members would get next to nothing if they are sacked.

‘Labour is making savage attacks on the civil service workforce.

‘If the Conservative government come in, they could cut jobs willy nilly.’

He warned that cutting terms would mean compulsory redundancy will become inevitable.

He was asked by reporters, if the government moved to cut pay and cut more jobs, would the PCS take industrial action?

Serwotka replied: ‘There should be industrial action as a last resort, but we make it clear that we want to have a joint campaign first.’

He added: ‘In 2005, eight unions balloted for joint industrial action.

‘They got agreement on their pensions without having to take that action.’

He added: ‘If we are all under attack, we should all work together and campaign and ultimately take industrial action.’

Asked to comment on Brendan Barber’s remarks about social unrest, he said: ‘If anyone is elected and seeks to go along with massive public spending cuts, then I certainly think there will be real resistance by public sector unions.

‘In communities suffering deprivation there will be a reaction.

‘Our view is instead of such an apocalyptic vision, we need to have a debate on alternatives to public spending cuts.’

In answer to further questions, Serwotka said that Treasury Secretary Liam Byrne and Chancellor Alistair Darling were clear there were going to be cuts.

Dave Prentis, the leader of Unison, Britain’s biggest public sector union, told a press conference: ‘No way are we going to allow our members to pay for the bail-out of the banks.’

He added: ‘We want to make sure a Labour government does not cut public services.

‘We are opposed to the Tories and Liberal Democrats who are for making cuts willy nilly.

‘Now we’re coming out of the recession pretty quickly, as banks come back into profitability, the government must make sure the banks pay the money back.’

He said: ‘Our members want fairness.’

Asked to comment on Mark Serwotka’s call for joint industrial action, he said: ‘We will be campaigning to make sure that cuts are reversed.

‘If our members face compulsory redundancies, we will ballot for industrial action, but that will be a trade dispute.

‘It would be illegal for us to take industrial action on a campaigning issue.’

On the question of social unrest, he said: ‘In the 1920s, social unrest led to a general strike.

‘In the 1970s cuts led to civil unrest.

‘If you get inner-city life collapse and you don’t maintain public services, you do get a threat to social cohesion.’

Prentis went on to say: ‘Our members have three concerns: job losses, privatisation and pension rights.

‘We will defend our members.’

Pressed on the issue of joint action, he said: ‘We would agree with industrial action which is legal and which is a trade dispute and in defending our members against job losses.’