Britain’s biggest public sector union, which backed Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, has amassed a £30m war chest for an unprecedented wave of strikes to sweep through schools, hospitals, councils and care homes this autumn, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.
Unison has a battle plan for rolling walkouts by its 1.4 million members to oppose cuts to jobs, pay and pensions. Dave Prentis, the union’s general secretary, told The IoS he was preparing “enormous” industrial action, the biggest ever taken by a single union. “The vastness of this is incredible,” he said before the union’s annual conference this week. Ministers were pursuing an “ideological, Daily Mail-driven attack” by increasing the general retirement age in the public sector from 60 to 66, moving from a final salary system to benefits based on career-average earnings and raising contributions by an average 3.2 per cent.
He hit out at tougher anti-strike laws advocated by some ministers, dismissing Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, as “a tap-dancer coming along telling us he is going to make it even more draconian, probably more draconian than Russia or China”.
Mr Miliband said he had sympathy with public sector workers who feel ministers have treated them in a “most disgraceful and high-handed manner”. He said: “Frankly, I think it’s a disgrace what they’re doing. People remember the 1980s and remember the politics of division. I am very worried that the Government is looking for a fight on this.”
Up to 750,000 teachers and civil servants will join a one-day strike on 30 June. Mr Cable said yesterday he hoped “reasonable people” could resolve the dispute.