TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber yesterday warned of ‘widespread industrial action’ over public sector pensions.
Speaking at a press conference in Congress House, central London, in advance of next week’s Congress, he said the government ‘should look at the damage it has done through its arbitrary actions.’
Asked about the current pensions negotiations with the unions, he said that if there is no give from the government: ‘is there a prospect of widespread industrial action – yes.’
Asked about demands from London Mayor Boris Johnson to ban strikes, Barber said: ‘I’ve seen the campaign from some MPs and the London Mayor for new laws on industrial action, but ministers have not said they are willing to change the law.’
He added that ‘Mayor Johnson and others say they plan greater democracy but this is no greater democracy but a pattern of new barriers to industrial action.’
Barber insisted: ‘Workers must have the right to strike.’
Returning to public sector pensions, Barber said: ‘One issue is the ceiling the Treasury is going to impose on each of the individual schemes.
‘Even more value being stripped out of the entitlement is a key message.’
Referring to talks with the government on Thursday, he said: ‘It’s the first time we’ve been aware of any detail. We will be going back with a more considered response.
‘I always hope for fairness and reason, that they will respond in a proper way.’
Asked what the TUC plans to do, Barber said: ‘The TUC role is we seek that unions who work alongside each other coordinate their actions.
‘In the immediate future, more unions are contemplating that course.’
He warned that ‘the mood for possible industrial action is mounting potentially in a broad range of unions’.
Asked about relations with the Labour Party, Barber called on leader Ed Miliband and the party to ‘be more vocal about the agreement they made with us’ for an alternative approach.
He explained that ‘we’d like to see a more progressive tax system.’
He added: ‘On pensions, whether we are able to reach agreement, I just don’t know.
‘On a number of issues across public services they have indicated they are not prepared to move.’
He warned the government was ‘at risk’.