Unite's Derek Simpson plays down strikes threat

Media caption,
Joint General Secretary of the Union union Derek Simpson has said the British public should have "a proper understanding of what's happening to us"

Union leader Derek Simpson has played down the prospect of widespread strike action by unions this autumn.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, the joint general secretary of Unite said the union would instead try to educate people about the impact of big cuts in public spending.

The government is expected to announce details of massive spending cuts on 20 October, following a spending review.

Other unions have called for a "national day of action" in protest.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and the RMT, led by Bob Crow, have been among those calling for co-ordinated strike action in response to the cuts.

But talk of an "autumn of discontent" would only help the government by deflecting attention away from the spending cuts and their impact, Mr Simpson said.

"Here we've got cuts that are going to affect women much more than men, poor people much more than richer people," he said.

"We are going to try and educate our members and people generally about what's really happening.

No 'Greek-style' protests

"[It is] part of a process of drawing attention to some of the real issues... from the point of view of the impact [the cuts] will have on ordinary people."

However Greek-style protests and disorder in response to austerity measures were unlikely to happen in the UK, Mr Simpson added.

Image caption,
David Cameron has again defended the government's deficit reduction plans

"I don't think that's the nature of the British public," he said.

"We don't have the volatile nature of the French or the Greeks."

Spending cuts due to be announced in October could see government department budgets cut by an average of 25%, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The coalition government has made repairing the UK's finances its top priority, and has pledged to cut spending in order to reduce government borrowing to virtually zero over the next six years.

Writing in the Sunday Times, the Prime Minister David Cameron defended the planned cuts, calling them "the right remedy" for the UK's fiscal problems.

"One pound in every four the government spends is borrowed money," he wrote.

"The simple fact is that we are living dangerously beyond our means and... a spending review of unprecedented ambition is the right remedy."

Mr Simpson agreed that addressing the country's record £155bn budget deficit was necessary, but favoured Labour's approach of making the cuts over a longer period.

"If you care about ordinary people, you do it over a properly planned period," he said.

He said the Conservatives should expect a backlash from voters at the next election, once the impact of the cuts had been felt.

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