Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Monday, 8 September 2008 11:41 UK

Unions vote for mass pay protests

By Justin Parkinson
BBC News political reporter, in Brighton

Wakefield protest
Council workers walked out in July over pay

The TUC has voted for a major protest campaign against the government's public sector pay policy.

The vast majority of delegates at the TUC's annual conference backed the proposal, which said limiting increases to 2% a year was "unfair and unjust".

Mark Serwotka, of the PCS union, called ministers' argument that it was needed to stem inflation "morally bankrupt".

An amendment urging the TUC to go further and organise a public sector-wide national strike was


'Not fair'

In his opening speech to the conference, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber had earlier said: "Too much of contemporary Britain simply isn't fair.

"It's not fair that employees are facing a fall in their living standards while top bosses see their pay packets go up by 20% or even 30%."

Brendan Barber calls for an increase in public sector pay awards

Unions, gathered in Brighton for the conference, have long been furious at the Treasury's 2% pay package, which ministers say is needed to keep inflation down.

But they now argue that rising fuel and food prices make it even more unacceptable.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has already decided to ballot its 270,000 members over industrial action.

The conference motion, proposed by Unison and seconded by the PCS, demands "days of action including a major national demonstration against the government's pay policy".

Unison deputy general secretary Keith Sonnett told delegates: "Public sector workers have had enough.

We would expect the TUC not to dodge away from this
Brian Caton
Prison Officers' Association

"They've been saying very loudly and clearly that they will not accept the imposition."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We need to get tens of thousands of people on the streets to show how angry they feel."

He said that, if Labour lost its core vote at the next election, and the Conservatives won, the current government would "have themselves to blame".

But the Prison Officers' Association (POA) said the motion did not go far enough and tabled an amendment calling for a series of strikes across the public sector.

'Not for turning'

This was rejected by delegates using a card vote, after a show of hands proved inconclusive.

POA general secretary Brian Caton said: "We don't think this Labour government listens. We don't think the Labour government is for turning.

Mark Serwotka: 'Labour must stop worshipping at the altar of the rich

"We don't think that because Gordon Brown constantly says it and his predecessor [Tony Blair] constantly said it."

A TUC spokeswoman said of the POA's demand: "It would be a political strike, as it does not refer to a specific dispute with an employer, and would therefore be illegal."

The annual conference lasts until Thursday, with union rights, calls for windfall taxes on energy firms and the protection of vulnerable workers also likely to feature prominently.

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