Hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers stepped towards a widespread confrontation with the government over pay yesterday, with the Con-Dem coalition facing a summer of resistance.
In schools, the health service and local authorities, Britain’s three biggest unions are launching ballots on strike action.
Public-sector workers have suffered four years of austerity, 440,000 job losses, privatisation, pay freezes and real-terms pay cuts of 18 per cent.
Now they are preparing to fight back against the Tories and their Liberal Democrat collaborators.
General union GMB is to ballot 220,000 members employed by local authorities and in education in June over a derisory 1 per cent pay proposal.
If they back a strike, action is planned for July 10.
“Industrial action is not our members’ preference but faced with years of pay freezes, low pay, cuts and job losses, they are saying enough is enough,” GMB national officer Brian Strutton said.
Public-sector union Unison is balloting 600,000 members working for local authorities and in education, and hundreds of thousands more in the NHS.
And Unite is consulting 100,000 health service workers on strike action.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “We will be urging our members for a decisive mandate to move to the next stage of a full industrial ballot with the prospect of industrial action in July.
“July is the month that marks the 66th anniversary of the birth of the NHS, whose ethos is being comprehensively undermined by ministers intent on privatising the health service as fast as possible by the time of next year’s general election.
“Our members are taking this action reluctantly and with a heavy heart but they feel they have no choice given the contempt that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has shown to the dedicated NHS workforce.”
The government is already embroiled in a series of disputes in the public sector, including the firefighters’ long-running action in defence of their pensions and jobs.
Members of lecturers’ union UCU yesterday lobbied talks in London calling for a pay rise for further education lecturers.
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