The annual Trades Union Congress is to begin in Manchester, with union leaders preparing to square up to the government over its proposed spending cuts.
The TUC will be urged to spearhead a programme of street demonstrations and co-ordinated industrial action to protect public sector jobs, pay and pensions.
General Secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber told the programme that he wanted the union to provide political leadership for the broad range of community groups who would seek to speak up against the cuts in the coming months.
"Our purpose is... to get across the positive case for a different approach to managing our economy," he told John Humphrys.
"This programme of cuts is going to drag our economy down, not solve our problems".
But cabinet minister Francis Maude said that the government were set on the scale of cuts, following backing from the Bank of England and G20.
He said the government would do all it could to save money by cutting costs and making government more efficient, thereby protecting as many jobs as possible.
To this end he called on organisations like the TUC to "form a real partnership" with the government to direct the cuts as fairly as possible.
"None of this is going to be at all easy. I hope that the trade union leaders at the TUC this week, for all that they take a different view about budget deficit reduction, will engage with us," he said.
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