UK Politics

Labour conference: Miliband 'will attend' union march

Ed Miliband making his Labour conference speech
Image caption Ed Miliband has been criticised by unions over his policy on public sector pay

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he will attend a trade union-organised march against government cuts later this month.

The demonstration, labelled "a future that works", is due to take place in central London on 20 October.

Asked by a union member at Labour's annual conference in Manchester if he would join the protest, Mr Miliband replied that he would "be there".

Unions have criticised Labour for supporting a public sector pay freeze.

The coalition says this is necessary to reduce the deficit.


Usdaw trade union member Chris Gilmour urged Mr Miliband to attend the demonstration during a question-and-answer session at the Labour conference.

He said: "When the nation stands together on 20 October on the streets of London, Glasgow and Belfast will you be there to help us show our disappointment against this government?"

Mr Miliband, who did not attend a union rally held last year over changes to public sector pensions, replied: "Yes, I will be there."

This was greeted with applause by the delegates in the conference hall.

Earlier this week, on the eve of Labour's conference, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the party was "crazy" to back the government's pay restraint.

Image caption Chris Gilmour asked the Labour leader if he would attend in the spirit of "one nation"

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, welcomed the Labour leader's decision to attend the demonstration, saying: "It is great news that he is coming. He is very welcome. Our aim is for one nation against austerity."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: "We must not let this rotten coalition destroy the achievements of the past generations.

"This is the most right-wing government Britain has had in modern times. It is daring to tread even where Margaret Thatcher did not tread."

Organisers say they want the October march to repeat the "success" of last year's demonstration, which was attended by more than 250,000 people.

Ed Miliband addressed the crowds at last year's event, saying he was "proud" to be there.

Chancellor George Osborne said in his first Budget speech there would be a two-year public sector pay freeze.

While the TUC says it does not envisage a general strike, the GMB and Unison trade unions have said they are planning for co-ordinated industrial action unless the pay freeze is suspended.

Ministers say preventing pay rising with inflation will save £3.3bn a year - which they say will help reduce the deficit.

But the unions organising October's demostration insist that increasing income tax revenue is the only to way to grow the economy and close the gap between tax receipts and government spending.

Labour has said it will not be able to reverse many of the government's cuts.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls was heckled last month when he told delegates at the TUC conference that a pay freeze was vital to securing jobs.

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