“This year the government and the employers have miscalculated,” Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, told delegates to the public sector union’s conference in Brighton last week.
“They have rewarded the delivery of first class public services with a kick in the teeth.
“We won’t have it. We will work with our sister unions. We are prepared to fight. We are prepared to strike. We will coordinate action locally and nationally, and we will win,” he told the cheering conference.
The conference voted unanimously for a motion demanding the government abandon its 2 percent public sector pay limit.
Delegates forced the motion, submitted by the national executive and Manchester community and mental health branch onto the agenda of conference.
Both the health and local government groups of the union are moving towards balloting for industrial action at the end of the summer.
The motion commits Unison to mounting a vigorous campaign for fair pay across the public sector, which could involve strike action of over a million public sector workers.
The conference decided that the action should be coordinated with other public sector unions.
“Our members have been insulted,” said Unison national executive member Jane Carolan, introducing the debate.
“I’m sure Cherie Blair doesn’t have to wait for the Co-op divvy cheque to come in before buying the kids’ school clothes, or deciding whether to pay the electricity or the gast bill – like many of our members do.
“If this government truly wants 21st century public services, then it will have to pay 21st century pay rates.
“But unions cannot fight these battles alone.
“We are committed to a united front – to work with the PCS, the GMB, NUT, UCU, CWU, Unite and other trade unions.”
She stressed delegates should return to their branches and talk to members to prepare for a ballot on strike action.
“You are this union’s leaders – take the lead,” she urged them.
“Go back to your branches and prepare them for the battle ahead. Our cause is just, we can win.”