Unions are preparing to confront the government over “obscene” cuts to public services and England’s biggest council is set to be the first battleground of a campaign to fight spending cuts that could spark a wave of strikes in the coming months.
Thousands of Birmingham City Council workers will hold a mass meeting on 23 September after receiving letters warning they could lose their jobs under plans to slash spending.
The TUC Congress agreed to co-ordinate campaigns and industrial action amid warnings that some unions have already started preparing to launch stoppages.
Millions of workers are now on a collision course with the government as the scale of the austerity measures unfolds.
Leaders of the country’s biggest unions lined up at the TUC conference in Manchester to lambast the coalition for its “reckless” spending cuts, which they said had already led to more than 200,000 job losses or threats of redundancies among public sector workers.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said it was a “lie” the country could not afford decent public services, arguing the government was making cuts because it wanted to promote privatisation. He said: “If there’s money available to bail out banks and bonuses, if there’s money for war and Trident, there’s money for our public services.
“If money is tight, never mind a pay freeze for our members, how about a pay freeze for bankers? We’ve seen enough of what they’ve done, we’ve had enough of their greed and arrogance. It’s them, not our members, who should be doing more for less.”
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, who has called for civil disobedience to defend public services, drew loud applause from delegates when he said: “We lie down or stand up and fight.”
Gail Cartmail, of Unite, said unions were facing the “fight of our lives” and warned that women would suffer most from public spending cuts.