Unite trade union calls for general strike
- 4 April 2013
- From the section UK Politics
Britain's biggest trade union, Unite, is calling for a 24-hour general strike against austerity measures.
In a document submitted to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the union, which has 1.4 million members, says "such action is desirable".
The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the TUC's general council on 24 April.
No strike date has yet been suggested, and Unite accepts that the move could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
But Unite believes a general strike "would be a landmark in our movement's recovery of its morale, strength and capacity to play a leading part in a society crying out for credible and honourable leadership".
BBC political correspondent Tom Barton says that if a strike were called, the union would make it "explicitly political", targeting the coalition's austerity programme.
Legal advice received by Unite suggests a general strike could be legal under human rights legislation if it were called as part of a political - rather than a trade - dispute.
But the union warns that "it would be rash to assume" that the British courts would take the same view.
Marc Meryon, a partner at law firm Eversheds, commented: "Unions can only organise strike action if certain conditions are satisfied. For example, there must be a live dispute between the striking workers and their employer over an issue such as terms and conditions of employment or working arrangements.
"As such, a general strike held to protest about government policy or a political matter, which is not directly related to the striking workers' employment, risks being unlawful and runs the risk of being challenged by any employer affected."
The country's second-biggest union, Unison, which has 1.3 million members, says it supports the idea of a general strike "in principle".
But sources say Unison could only join the action if it were part of a "legitimate trade dispute", and point out that it would need to notify more than 20,000 employers.
They say they have concerns about the legality of holding a general strike, which would need to be overcome before they could support it.
The TUC voted to examine the feasibility of holding a general strike last year. It has received submissions on the subject from all the major unions.
A number of unions, including Prospect, ATL and Usdaw, are understood to oppose the idea of holding a general strike.