A UNION boss has threatened a campaign of co-ordinated strikes across public services and the private sector in the ongoing battle over low pay.
Speaking in the North-East today (Friday, April 4), Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said public sector workers had “no alternative” but to take industrial action in response to the Government’s tough stance on below-inflation salary increases.
Referring to Unison’s 1.4m public sector workers, which includes 80,000 in this region, he said: “At the end of the day it’s the Government that decides what pay increases we get and if it takes co-ordinated action across our local community services, health services and all other employers where we’ve got members, we will seek to take co-ordinated action.”
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The union chief was speaking ahead of a regional Unison pay conference in Newcastle.
He said local government workers had been offered a “derisory” one per cent pay increase while NHS workers were being asked to give up incremental rises worth around three per cent.
Public sector workers were paying the price for the economic crisis, he added, while chief executives pocket big pay rises and bankers’ bonuses are higher than ever.
“If the Government isn’t standing up for us, we’ve got to think about whether we take industrial action,” he said.
“I think we’ve got no alternative. We’ve got to stand up for ourselves.
“It may well be a long campaign; it could be we take action fairly quickly. But I believe our workers will come together to build that campaign and fight for a pay increase.”
Asked about the impact of strikes on the public, Mr Prentis said Unison did not “go around ringing the bell for industrial action” but he hoped the public would realise the “terrible situation” facing his members and support them.
Chancellor George Osborne committed the Government to continuing pay restraint in the public sector in last month’s Budget, saying it was an essential part of maintaining sound finances and economic stability.
Public sector pay has risen at below the rate of inflation since 2010, although it is still higher than the private sector average.