Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Unite union proposes first general strike since 1926

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, is urging other unions to join forces to stage a 24-hour general strike in what it privately admits would be an “explicitly political” attack against the government. The threat comes as Number 10 on Tuesday ruled out speculation that it was to freeze or even cut the minimum wage, as it embarked on the largest contraction to date in the welfare state with the aim of making “work pay”.

Leaders from across the movement will discuss the idea of a general strike later this month at a meeting of the Trades Union Congress’s general council, with members divided over how to respond to the government’s attempts to curb public spending. Unite, which has 1.5m members, has put forward a paper urging the TUC to “prepare for such mass industrial action”.

Unite argues that “such action is desirable” as it would not only put pressure on the government to change course but it would also enhance the credibility of the entire labour movement. “It would be a landmark in our movement’s recovery of its morale, strength and capacity to play a leading part in a society crying out for credible and honourable leadership,” the paper says.

Unite holds back from proposing an early date and acknowledges it would take months to build support. Unions would have to win the backing of members in ballots. The union proposes a voluntary levy across the movement’s 6.5m-strong membership to pay the wages of “particular selected and identified” groups of workers striking on behalf of the TUC’s wider objectives.