TUC conference: Unions back strikes and disobedience

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Unions are to co-ordinate strikes and civil disobedience against job and pay cuts after voting to support a planned day of action on 5 November.

Leaders at the annual TUC congress backed the action planned by The People's Assembly - a coalition of campaigners, activists and unions.

The Unite union said "mass mobilisation" was needed.

Delegates backed a motion criticising "all the major UK parties" for planning austerity measures after 2015.

Civil disobedience could include the blockade of bridges and sit-down protests.

Unite's executive director of policy, Steve Turner, told the audience in Bournemouth: "If we have got money to propose war on Syria, we've got money to wage war on food banks; to put our people back to work; our children into school and university - not debt and despair - and to provide dignity for our elderly.

Extracts from TUC motion

People are facing the biggest fall in living standards on record.

Far from tackling the deficit, George Osborne's strategy will mean an extra £245bn in borrowing.

With all major UK parties signing up to the same spending plans and promising further austerity after the 2015 general election, it is up to trade unions and communities to resist these failed policies.

The programme of cuts and privatisations affecting our NHS, schools, social security system, and public services is a co-ordinated and systematic attack - that is disproportionately hitting working class communities, and in particular women, disabled people and ethnic minorities.

Congress therefore instructs the General Council to:

  1. facilitate a co-ordinated programme of industrial action and civil disobedience
  2. promote and support the day of action called by the People's Assembly
  3. step up the campaign against austerity and for an economic alternative

"It is up to us," he said. "Not just to fight back industrially, but to build a mass movement, by building a social consensus, a coalition for change, amongst organised and unorganised workers, campaign groups, the People's Assembly, churches and charities, as well as direct action and grassroots organisations."

Strikes planned

Janice Godrich, president of the PCS union, which represents government employees, added: "We need action, and my union believes we will need mass co-ordinated strike action to bring this government to the negotiating table and to defeat austerity."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady told delegates that the TUC was ready to co-ordinate industrial action where unions wanted it.

The warnings came ahead of a possible strike by more than 120,000 postal workers over plans to privatise Royal Mail.

Meanwhile, firefighters have also voted to strike - over pensions - and teachers are to take industrial action in their dispute with the government over pay, pensions and working conditions.

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