Unison chief's 'call to arms' warns of long fight over
Dave Prentis tells union that
coalition war on public services will be met with
sustained industrial action
By POLLY CURTIS
June 22, 2011
Dave Prentis, the head of the UK's biggest
public-sector union, has stepped up the strike
rhetoric, promising the government a campaign of
industrial action without precedent and telling his
annual conference: "This is our call to arms."
The leader of Unison said there would be sustained
strikes until the government backed down on its
controversial proposals to overhaul public-sector
pensions. The campaign to "break the pay freeze, stop
the jobs cull and send this coalition packing" would be
extended. Prentis accused David Cameron of defending
the interests of "fat cat bankers" and sacrificing
low-paid public-sector workers. But he also fiercely
attacked the Labour party, threatening to withdraw
support unless the party backed the union campaign.
He said of the government's action on public services:
"They're cutting further now than Thatcher dared. For
them it's unfinished business. They've declared war on
our public services - with Tory donors, City firms,
hedge funders back in the heart of government."
He pledged support for the four unions holding a
one-day strike next week and said: "If the government
fails to listen, to heed our warnings, to negotiate in
good faith, I say, David Cameron, you ain't seen
nothing yet. We will strike to defend our pensions. A
campaign of strike action without precedent. Yes, we
hope for the best. Yes, we will negotiate. But we plan
for the worst. Our preparations are well advanced, but
there is more to do.
"This is our union's call to arms. When you get back to
your branches, prepare for action. You have a massive
job to do; deciding in regions what action to take,
millions of leaflets to distribute, winning the
argument with the public, recruiting new members to the
cause. Strike action will need to be sustained. And the
political and public campaigns intensified.
"The fight of our lives may be an overused cliche, but
conference, this is it. A fight we can win, a fight we
must win, and together a fight we will win."
Last week talks on pension reforms between the unions
and ministers, with Prentis chairing the union
delegation, threatened to collapse after the chief
secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander,
unilaterally announced a deal. Prentis then told the
Guardian there would be the biggest strikes since 1926,
with rolling action across Britain should the
government refuse to back down.
<For the full text, gp to http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/21/unison-public-sector-pensions-cuts>
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