Britain faces the “biggest trade union mobilization in a generation” on November 30 unless the government agrees to shake up its changes to public sector pensions.
The industrial action is expected to involve up to 3 million people who work in the public sector, including teachers, lecturers, firefighters, and health workers.
At least 14 unions have announced their commitment to strikes over pension reform.
“Justice for both public and private”
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, made sure to note that the “fair pensions for all” slogan does not mean he is fighting for only public sector workers.
“The intention will be to take the call for pensions justice for both public and private sector workers to every corner of the land,” Barber said.
This comes as a refute to government criticism that public sector pensions are “unfair” to private sector workers, whose pensions are decidedly less generous.
Barber has said that this demonstrates the dearth of resources made available to private sector workers and not the pampering of public sector workers, and has called numerous times for the need for better pensions for all workers.
The action on November 30 could be the biggest walkout since the General Strike of 1926, though unions report talks of tactical and “smart” strikes for the sustained action. This kind of action would target specific sectors while limiting the strikes’ affect on vulnerable groups.
GMB has threatened that action may go on through the summer, affecting the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee, and with “smart” strikes this they warn this could very well be sustainable.
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary, said, “We are not just looking to nudge this along. We are assuming that this will be a huge set piece conflict running for a long time.”
George Osborne’s comments that union action would be “deeply irresponsible” since talks are still going on have been met by many official statements of “enough is enough.”
“While we will never walk away from talks, neither can we sit on our hands. We will support days of action and tactical selective action,” said Gail Cartmail, general secretary at Unison.