Labour’s support for the Tory-LibDem coalition’s public sector pay freeze leaves public sector workers ‘disenfranchised’, the leader of the biggest trade union and biggest Labour donor said yesterday.
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey warned that the Labour Party leadership’s embrace of austerity leaves working people without a political alternative to coalition cuts – and will lead to electoral disaster.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls’ announcement over the weekend that Labour supports the government’s public sector wage freeze puts the party into conflict with millions of poorly paid public sector workers who now face years of effective wage cuts, said McCluskey.
Writing in the Guardian, McCluskey said: ‘Ed Balls’ sudden weekend embrace of austerity and the government’s public sector pay squeeze represents a victory for discredited Blairism at the expense of the party’s core supporters.
‘It also challenges the whole course Ed Miliband has set for the party, and perhaps his leadership itself.
‘Unions in the public sector are bound to unite to oppose the real pay cuts for public sector workers over the next year.
‘When we do so, it seems we will now be fighting the Labour front bench as well as the government.
‘The political elite which was united in promoting the City-first deregulation policies that led to the crash is now united in asserting that ordinary people must pick up the tab for it.
‘It leaves the country with something like a “national government” consensus where, as in 1931, the leaders of the three big parties agree on a common agenda of austerity to get capitalism – be it “good” or “bad” – back on its feet.
‘Where does this leave the half a million people who joined the TUC’s march for an alternative last year, and the half of the country at least who are against the cuts? Disenfranchised.’
McCluskey predicted the political end of Miliband writing: ‘Having won on the measures, “new Labour” will likely come for the man sooner or later.
‘And that way lies the destruction of the Labour Party as constituted, as well as certain general election defeat.’
Miliband responded that McCluskey was ‘entitled to his view’, but that he was wrong.
‘We can’t go around making promises that we can’t afford to keep because that would just undermine trust in us and trust in politics,’ Miliband said.
Contacted by News Line, a TUC spokesman said: ‘No comment. It’s a matter for Labour and its affiliated unions. We’re not commenting, we’re leaving it up to them.’
And a Unison spokeswoman refused to comment, saying: ‘We do not comment on our relations with the Labour Party in public.’
The press office of the other mass public sector union, the GMB, said: ‘We are not commenting at the moment. We’ll issue a statement in good time.’