The government has been warned it faces “industrial turmoil on a massive scale” as unions start planning to step up opposition to spending and job cuts.
A series of union annual conferences will start later this month when activists are set to express growing anger at the coalition’s austerity measures and discuss industrial action.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, has accused the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats of breaking promises since last year’s general election.
“The economy is still in intensive care, but the government’s medicine is not working.
“We know that worse lies ahead. After the double bank holiday feel-good factor wears off, the reality of austerity Britain will kick back in. For public sector workers and the people who rely on them, for the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly, the jobless and those seeking to better themselves through education, the future is bleak.
“Unless this government changes direction, it is heading for industrial turmoil on a massive scale. The government must understand that Unison will fight tooth and nail to protect and defend public services, and will ballot one million of its members to strike to protect their pensions.
“This will not be a token skirmish, but a prolonged and sustained war, because this government has declared war on a huge proportion of the population.
“Many have the opportunity in elections this week to let the government know exactly what they think of its handling of the economy. The government would be wise to take note of that verdict.”
Public and Commercial Services general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Barely a year in, this government has sparked a wave of popular anger against its ideological plan to blame and punish us for an economic crisis caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector.
“No government in living memory has sparked such unrest and opposition to its central economic policy in such a short space of time.
“We are committed to continuing to make the case for unity and to oppose all cuts, not because it is a simple slogan, but because it is right. The cuts are not just unfair, they are totally unnecessary, and there is an alternative.
“We refuse to be forced to choose between the old and the young, those in work and those out of work, the healthy and the sick.
“At least half a million people showed on the TUC march that they were prepared to march for the alternative. We are now saying we must also be prepared to strike for it.”
The PCS annual conference in two weeks’ time will discuss plans for a national ballot of civil servants for industrial action in protest at spending cuts and the effect they are having on services and jobs.