We await reports from inside today’s TUC meeting. Below is the response of Brendan Barber. Fearing the discussion on “coordinated industrial action” Brendan had a rabbit in his hat. It appears that the government has agreed not to implement pension changes in the March budget. It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a manoeuvre designed to undermine the possibility of strike action which was being discussed by the NUT, PCS and UCU.
Mind you, they haven’t “ruled out strike action”. Speaking outside TUC headquarters Barber told the BBC that the unions had agreed to work more closely together to fight the cuts “including – as a last resort – in some circumstances potentially, industrial action”.
Dave Prentis has just assured everybody on Radio 4 that any action taken won’t be political.
Speaking after a special TUC meeting called today (Friday) to discuss the union industrial response to the effects of government spending cuts, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
“The government’s agenda is doing huge damage to the economy and vital public services. The TUC is mounting a wide campaign against these mistaken policies.
But 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.
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 will step up its work co-ordinating the industrial work of unions. There will be monthly meetings of all the TUC’s public sector unions in the Public Services Liaison Group, and the TUC’s General Council will consider at each of its meetings a report of what is happening across the whole economy.
As a result of discussions with the Chancellor and other ministers, the government has agreed to central talks on the future of public service pensions. Ministers have now accepted that they will not force through changes in the March budget.
These will be difficult negotiations as public service workers will not allow their pensions to be hammered. We hope that the talks can make progress, but we cannot rule out industrial action taking place on this issue.
The TUC will continue its campaign against the deep and rapid spending cuts. Polls show that public opinion is shifting, and people understand just how unfair and damaging these cuts will prove to public services, jobs and the wider economy.
The demonstration on 26 March will be a huge event at which the British people will come together to show their opposition to the government’s chosen course.”