Delegates at Unison’s local government conference voted today to back a campaign of strikes to defend their pensions.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis has repeatedly told the press over the last few days that the union is set to unleash a wave of action that will be “the biggest since the 1926 general strike”.
This has already scared the government into partially backtracking over the policy.
It has also clearly caught the mood of the union members. Delegate after delegate lined up during the serious and determined debate this morning to support the idea of strikes.
Sean Fox of Lambeth Unison said there was “no doubt we need to go on strike”. “We’ve got to bring this country to a standstill,” he added.
“Let’s get that huge ballot turnout,” said Sue Laws of Walsall Unison. “Let’s get that huge yes vote.”
“There are far more of us than there are of them,” agreed Adrian Kennett from Hull. “We can reach out like no generation of trade unionists before and speak to millions.”
Phoebe Watkins from Camden praised the unions which are set to strike on June 30 as having “inspired” Unison members. She said she hoped to “see the Arab spring coming to this country”.
And Linda Hardy from Newcastle said Unison members “must ensure we give as much support as we legally can” to the 30 June walkouts.
The union leadership encouraged delegates to prepare for strikes.
“If negotiations fail, we will ballot for sustained strike action in the autumn,” said Jonathan Sedgebeer, moving the motion for the national executive. “That’s a fact.
“We need each and every one of you to go back to your branches and prepare for a ballot so we can win massively.”
Service group executive chair Chris Tansley said, “This is Unison’s time. We were created for such moments as these.” He paid tribute to members on strike in Southampton.
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, called Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander a “thieving tomcat”.
She said, “If it comes to it we have to win that ballot—with the sort of majority that leaves the government in no doubt. We will protect our pensions.”
A motion calling on the union to “make preparations for early, lawful industrial action within Unison’s rules, and co-ordinate with other trade unions” was backed unanimously by delegates.