Next week will see millions of workers striking on 30 November as part of what TUC’s Brendan Barber has called the biggest trade union mobilisation “for a generation.”
The count is now above 30 public sector unions who are all involved in the bitter row over government proposals to make state employees pay more into their pensions while receiving less and working longer.
David Cameron, who has long since called the threats to strike “irresponsible” in the current economy, as he has said it will hurt families, has come out again in condemnation of the strikes.
The strikes could mean school closures in the thousands throughout Britain, which will mean many parents will have to stay home for lack of child care. Cameron, seemingly resigned to the strikes rather than keeping hope of negotiation, has said that parents should be able to take their children to work, though it is not clear how many firms will allow this.
This means private sector workers and those not participating in the strikes could have to stay at home, disrupting business.
Though Cameron calls this bad for growth and business, this is just the eventuality that unions and public sector workers are hoping for to gain them leverage in the fight for their pensions.
The timing of the strikes, on 30 November, is meant to undermine the government, as they will come just a day after Cameron is set to deliver his autumn growth report that will focus on an underperforming British economy.
The coalition is currently on a mission to cut the budget deficit, which it believes will lead to growth, and has its eye on public sector pensions as an unsustainable in an austerity programme.
The Prime Minister has also called the government’s new pension offer, which gives concessions to the original tough cuts, a “very reasonable deal.”
In an opinion article he wrote for the Sun, Cameron drew attention to the very low voter turnout – on average around one third of members balloted – that indicates the majority of public sector workers are not keen to strike.
However, unions have countered the argument, saying that those who did vote voiced an “overwhelming” majority decision in favour of the walkouts.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) released a statement throwing barbs at the Minister, saying that the four largest public sector unions were able to get more votes in favour of strikes than Cameron was able to drum up in a 2010 parliamentary election.