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TUC conference: Unions to debate pay and strike action

Union member on strike Image copyright PA
Image caption Public sector workers staged a strike in July

The squeeze on public sector pay, the prospect of more public sector strikes and attacks on unions will be top of the agenda at a union conference later.

More than 500 delegates from more than 50 unions will take part in the four-day event in Liverpool, held by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

It comes as unions prepare to step-up their campaign over pay .

A TUC poll has suggested a majority of workers have seen their pay fall behind inflation in recent years.

Commissioned for the conference, the poll found half the work force think their employer could afford better pay rises than staff have been given.

"We've seen the economy recovering, prices going up, profit margins going up," said the TUC's general secretary Frances O'Grady.

"The only thing that isn't going up is people's wages and people feel pretty determined that now is the time that Britain needs that pay rise."

Ms O'Grady told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show many workers were "not sharing" in the benefits of the economic recovery and predicted both industrial action and protests would take place in future months.

The national minimum wage for workers over 21 is set to rise to £6.50 next month, the first real-term cash increase since 2008.

But she urged Chancellor George Osborne to commit to the TUC's call for fresh increases in the minimum wage, and for employers to begin paying the "living wage", a measure pegged to actual living costs in specific areas.

'Fundamental attack'

This week unions representing about six million members across the public and private sectors will debate issues including jobs, the economy, public services and TTIP - a planned EU/US trade deal.

A series of motions will call for unions to step-up their campaigns for better pay including taking co-ordinated industrial action.

Following a one-day strike in July, public sector unions are planning further action in October, according to Dave Prentis, general secretary of one of the largest trade unions, Unison.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that in the week starting the 13 October we will be taking action, not only in local government but also in the health service and other public services," he said.

Local government workers are expected to strike on 14 October.

Health workers are also likely to take industrial action that week as hundreds of thousands of NHS staff are currently being balloted. Unions claim that 60% of NHS staff were denied a pay award this year.

The TUC is also organising a march and rally in London on 18 October on the issue of pay.

At the conference, Ms O'Grady will also highlight the Conservative Party's plans to curb industrial action with higher thresholds in strike ballots.

She is expected to describe the plans as a "fundamental attack on human rights that takes the UK towards the kind of regimes seen in undemocratic authoritarian states".

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