The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which took place in Brighton last week, showed the tensions between the unions and Gordon Brown’s government.
While some of the debates were tedious, the anger of workers over the state of Brown’s Britain did seep through.
The TUC backed a motion in favour of coordinated industrial action over public sector pay.
The motion to coordinate strike action was led by Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, backed by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Prison Officers’ Association.
Serwotka contrasted a pay offer that gave some staff in Jobcentre Plus nothing with the huge bonuses paid to City bosses, citing in particular Lord Browne, the former BP chief, who got £11 million last year. “Public service workers are not the cause of inflation, they are its victims,” he said.
To back his case, the three civil service unions, the Public and Commercial Service Union, Prospect and the FDA, released a study by the independent Incomes Data Services organisation which says that rather than public sector pay fuelling inflation, the recent increases have been driven by huge house price rises and petrol and oil price increases.
To applause from delegates, Serwotka said, “When Gordon Brown slams the door in our face, we have to say we aren’t accepting it. Unity is strength.”
The NUT warned that its members could join strike action in November unless they received a large offer from their independent pay body or if the government intervened again and staged the pay offer.
Christine Blower, the NUT deputy general secretary, said, “It is outrageous, in the face of economic growth to suggest that our economic future is dependant on pay cuts for public sector workers.”
Speakers from the RMT rail union, and the Unite and GMB unions also backed coordinated strike action.