Unions have voted to take "co-ordinated industrial action" against the government over its below-inflation pay settlement for public sector workers.
Unions are warning of a 'winter of discontent' over pay
The TUC annual conference heard that, unless a 2.5% rise in two stages was improved upon, there could be a series of mass strikes this autumn.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCU), said many workers were on "poverty wages".
On Monday Gordon Brown said the pay deal was needed to keep inflation down.
A motion from by the PCS and the National Union of Teachers said many public sector workers earn as little as £11,000 a year.
To loud applause from TUC delegates, Mr Serwotka said: "When Gordon Brown slams the door in our face, we have to say we aren't accepting it. Unity is strength."
Steve Cox, of the Prison Officers' Association, added: "None of us want a repeat of the winter of 1978. However, if the government continues like this, we have to be ready for action.
"If we are left with no alternative, we will all be out on the street."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the organisation would bring unions together and co-ordinate action, including industrial action and warned that the government would pay a "heavy price" if it did not change its mind over pay.
PCS members at the Department for Work and Pensions have already rejected a three-year deal by three to one and are likely to be balloted on possible strike action within weeks.
Prison guards have staged a walkout, while teachers, police and nurses have been among workers protesting at Mr Brown's public sector pay deal.
But, in his first address to the TUC as prime minister, Mr Brown said "pay discipline" was "essential to prevent inflation, to maintain growth and create more jobs - and so that we never return to the old boom and bust of the past".
Postal workers are also set for a national walkout by the end of September after talks over pay and conditions at Acas collapsed.
And workers at Remploy - which employs disabled people - are being balloted on possible strikes over factory closures.