The TUC set itself on a collision course with Gordon Brown on public sector pay last night by backing strike action by millions of public sector workers, foreshadowing a new “winter of discontent”.
Civil servants, local government workers, teachers, transport workers, prison officers and postal workers agreed with a unanimous show of hands at the TUC conference in Brighton to back coordinated strike action against the government’s 2% pay limit and privatisation of services.
Five times as many working days were lost to industrial disputes last year as in 2005.
The new figures by the Office for National Statistics show there were 158 separate stoppages in 2006, more than in the previous two years put together.
Most of the 754,500 days lost last year were in public administration and defence, fuelled by disputes over job cuts and conditions in the civil service.
Around 40,000 days were lost in transport and communication and 31,000 in education.
Midwives are considering strike action over the last pay deal offered to them.
It is the first time in the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) 125-year history that such a move has been discussed and reflects unhappiness within the profession at pay and conditions.
Earlier this week the survey of heads of midwifery in England found that midwifery services are struggling to keep up with the rising birth rate.
Delegates at the RCM’s conference in Brighton unanimously voted to ask the group’s governing council to consider balloting the college’s 37,000 members about industrial action, short of a strike.
Midwives have been offered a staged pay award of 2.5 per cent, but with the Retail Price Index inflation running at 4.5 per cent the RCM argues that the offer is in real terms a pay cut.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today announced it would ballot its members over industrial action in protest at the government’s decision to postpone part of this year’s pay award.
This is the first time the college has held a ballot for nationwide industrial action since it was founded in 1916. Although the college’s 300,000 members are only allowed to take industrial action that is not detrimental to patient care, a yes vote could still have major consequences for the NHS.
The RCN estimates that around 173,000 NHS nurses work an average of more than six hours unpaid overtime – equivalent to more than 1m hours of unpaid overtime – every week.
The college said the cost of covering this work with agency nurses would be a minimum of £13m per week.
Police will demand the right to strike if the Government goes ahead with plans for a radical overhaul of officers’ pay, John Reid, the Home Secretary, was told yesterday.
The warning came as Mr Reid, in his last weeks of the job, found himself facing 1,000 angry leaders of rank and file officers at a Police Federation meeting in Blackpool. The Home Secretary was told that if the Government’s plans were implemented officers would feel they were no different from other public sector workers and wanted the same protection.
Teachers voted yesterday in favour of a national strike in protest over Gordon Brown’s attempts to impose a two per cent pay settlement on public sector workers.
In a direct challenge to the Chancellor’s pledge to limit public sector pay, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will ballot members for a one-day walkout as the “first stage” of co-ordinated industrial action.
If other unions join the campaign, it will see the closure of thousands of schools across the country.
Teachers’ unions are throwing their weight behind the opposition to curbs on public sector pay.
They are unhappy their current two-year deal of 2.5% rises this year and next has fallen behind inflation – now 2.8%.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT), at its Easter conference, is to debate a priority motion calling for a ballot on a one-day strike with other unions.
The government has asked the teachers’ pay body to recommend a three-year deal to 2011, with a 2% inflation target.
The NUT motion, proposed by its leaders, condemns government pay policy as “discriminatory, unfair and demotivating”.