A significant shift in the battle against the Tories took place this week.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) annual conference in Manchester called for coordinated industrial action against the cuts. And, importantly, it has called a national demonstration for next March.
The language was robust across the board. Union leader after union leader dubbed the government’s planned cuts “obscene”, “reckless” and
“lunacy”, pledging the “fight of our lives” against a “demolition government”.
The general council statement on the economy and a motion backed by all except Balpa, the pilots’ union, called for co-ordinated campaigning against the government.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told delegates, “Where members, faced with attacks on jobs, pay or pensions, take a democratic decision for industrial action they will have the support of their unions, and the TUC stands ready to co-ordinate that.”
According to Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the alternative to the cuts was clear: “We will move to co-ordinate industrial action to defend all we hold dear, all the past generations have fought for.
“We have to rise to the challenge and build a powerful coalition of our own.”
This was the consensus across the delegations.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said public sector workers should not take lectures from millionaires.
He said, “Tax fraud costs £1 billion but tax avoidance costs £120 billion. Not one single job should be lost.
“Industrial action is inevitable unless the government is prepared to change direction and if we have to take action, the onus is on us to make sure it is as effective as possible.
“We need co-ordinated action between unions, but we also need to build a popular movement of opposition the like of which we haven’t seen for many years.”
As Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, put it, “We lie down or we stand up and fight!”
Matt Wrack, of the firefighters’ FBU union, said cutting government budgets by 25 percent or 40 percent was “lunacy”, adding that unions had to stop the cuts.
The response to Tory attacks dominated the TUC. There were six fringe meetings on Monday alone directly discussing what to do about the cuts.
Speaking in support of the motion for co-ordinated campaigning from the conference floor, Sean Vernell from the UCU union said, “The demonstration in March needs to be on a mass scale.
“It should be a process that leads to the scale of resistance that we have seen in France or in Greece.
“That means building up the resistance now. Part of that is the demonstration the UCU and NUS have called for 10 November. It means marching on the Tory party conference on 3 October.
“Recessions bring fear, we need to be the hope.”
What is the TUC?
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) brings together most of Britain’s trade unions.
- It represents 6.2 million workers from 58 affiliated unions.
- Delegates to its annual congress make major decisions on TUC policy.
Join the demonstration
March on the Tory conference, Sunday 3 October, Birmingham