The TUC congress meeting in Brighton voted in favour of looking at the 'practicalities' of organising a 'general strike' over Tory attacks on workers today, Tuesday.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, proposed the motion. He said, 'If we pass this motion, it does not mean we go on general strike tomorrow, but we should have it in our armoury.
“How can you make people work to 68 when you have a million unemployed? We shouldn’t be afraid of the word general strike. When they threaten us, you threaten them back.'
General secretary of the RMT union Bob Crow seconded the motion. He said, 'Every single person is representing someone here today under attack from this rotten government.
“What else can we do? A general streak through central London? I don't think so.” To cheers he added, “If it means a general strike let's do it and get on with it.”
The PCS and CWU unions also spoke in favour of the motion. Steve Turner from the Unite union said his union was 'proudly in support' of the motion. He said, “We have to stop running if we are to defeat the government's class war.”
A number of unions spoke against including Prospect and Usdaw. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the action would risk alienating the public and would hand the coalition a 'propaganda win'.
Airline pilots' union Balpa also said the motion was 'not in our name' and risked 'letting the genie out of the bottle'.
The NUT, Unison and GMB unions did not speak in the debate but voted for the motion.
The mood of the room in by far the liveliest debate of TUC congress was best summed up by Chris Murphy from the Ucatt union.
He said, “We threatened a general strike for the Pentonville dockers and they won. But look at the miners. One of the reasons the miners failed is because the TUC bottled it then. If you oppose this it will tell young people there is no fight.”
The motion passed overwhelmingly.