Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, has warned that the prospect of mass industrial unrest over public sector pay is becoming very likely and said his union would go as far as to support illegal strike action in protest.
Mr McCluskey, who is the latest senior union figure to threaten widespread walkouts, told the BBC he would disregard what he called the “artificial threshold” imposed by the government, which dictates that strike ballots have to achieve a 50 per cent turnout for legal industrial action to go ahead.
The Conservative government created this law in March.
The union chief said.
“If the government has pushed us outside the law, they will have to stand the consequences,”
“If they [Unite members] haven’t managed to hit an artificial threshold this government have foolishly put onto the statute books, then I will stand by our members and we’ll all live, including the government, we’ll all live with the consequences of that.”
He made the comments at the Trade Union Congress conference in Brighton which voted to support coordinated campaigns.
No. 10 has announced plans to ease the cap for prison officers and police next year but Theresa May is under pressure to end the seven-year freeze for teachers, nurses and other public sector workers.
However, the unions are pressing for a five per cent increase for millions of nurses, teachers, council staff, civil servants and other workers.
Public-sector pay was frozen for all but the lowest earners in 2010 and increases were limited to one per cent a year from 2013 as part of measures to reduce government spending.
The TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said coordinated action was a “last resort” if the government refused to give “people the pay rise they deserve”.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said other action would be pursued before widespread walk outs.
“We must commit to marching, demonstrating and lobbying – not just in Westminster, but in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh too.
“We need public events in every major city and town across the country to change the face of politics and hold Conservative MPs to account in their own back yards, and joint ballots for industrial action if all else fails.”
“We took that out because we know that if the bosses and the privileged elite want to push us outside the law, so be it. It won’t stop us standing up