Controversial motion passed despite opponents warning it will play into the hands of right wing enemies
The motion, proposed by the POA and seconded by the RMT, was carried despite opposition from the NASUWT, ATL, Usdaw, Prospect and BALPA.
POA general secretary Steve Gillan (pictured) said: “This motion doesn’t mean we are going on a general strike tomorrow, but we have to have it in our armoury because this government isn’t ashamed or embarrassed attacking working people.
“Some people think we might be playing into the hands of the government, but when you’re threatened, threaten back.”
Current anti-union legislation forbids prison officers from taking strike action.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow won enthusiastic applause when he told delegates: “Every single one of us in this room represents someone who has been attacked by the government.
“Ed Balls said this morning we shouldn’t wait until a Labour government . . . what should we do instead? Organise a mass streak through London?
“We have got to stand firm and take this fight to our opponents. If this motion means calling a general strike, then let’s get on and do it.”
Speakers from PCS, CWU also spoke in support of the motion, before Prospect general secretary Paul Noon opposed it, saying it was a distraction from winning the political arguments.
This argument was echoed by NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates, who said: “A general strike will deflect the growing anger at the government onto working people.”
They said passing the motion was playing into the hands of political opponents and the media.
Supporting the motion, Unite’s Steve Turner said: “We have to stop running if we are to defeat the government’s class war. We are at our best when we fight back, roaring like lions, now cowering in corners.”
Summing up, Steve Gillan said: “People say this motion will lead to us being attacked with a big stick. They’re already doing that and it’s beginning to hurt.
“This government will only stop chasing us when we stop running.”
Speaking after the debate, TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Congress has not voted for a general strike.
“A general strike would require support of all our members in democratic ballots.
“It would have enormous industrial and political implications.
“Congress has always opposed calls for a general strike when it has been proposed in recent years.”
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