This is the UnionNews live blog, reporting from Congress 2011 on September 14th as, one by one, unions stood up to announce their support for the strikes


Wednesday 14th, 09.46:


UNISON will ballot for strike action. General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is an unprecedented attack on ordinary working people, an audacious and devious means to pay for the greed of others.

“We’ve had enough. We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated, but there comes a time when we say enough is enough because if we don’t, they’ll be back for more . . . and more, and more.

“So today, I want to make it clear to this coalition that we will negotiate any time, any place, anywhere but if they impose change by dictat, we will take industrial action.”

More to come later . . .


Wednesday 14th, 10.09:


Unite to ballot its members for strike action over “despicable race to the bottom” of pensions


Wednesday 14th, 10.35:


The FBU has said it will ballot for strike action over pensions to avoid “zimmer frame” firefighters.

More to follow . . .


Wednesday 14th, 10.41:


GMB confirms ballot plans, saying action will be “long, hard and dirty”, stretching into spring.

Educational Institute of Scotland balloting too.

More follows


Wednesday 14th, 12.01:


Public sector workers in the UK are uniting around mass action planned for November, after UNISON, Unite, GMB, FBU and EIS unions announced they would ballot their members over pensions.

It would be the biggest walkout of working people in the UK since the 1926 General Strike.

PCS already has a mandate for strike action, with two other civil service unions, Prospect and the FDA, warning they will ballot their members if negotiations do not succeed. NUT, ATL, TSSA, NASUWT, UCATT, CWU also spoke in favour of calling for co-ordinated mass action.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber will host a meeting between all the affected unions this lunchtime to plan the campaign.

He said: “I remain fully committed to exhausting every possible negotiating opportunity to resolve this issue without the need for further, widespread industrial action, and we will be meeting ministers again next week, engaging in good faith in an effort to find a way forward.

“But ministers have to come to the table with new ideas, and in a new spirit, to give those talks a chance to succeed. But if those talks cannot make a breakthrough, unions are right and fully justified to plan for action.

“This morning’s debate has shown immense unity of purpose. We may yet need to show that unity in further action, and let no one doubt that our resolve and determination to win fairness and justice is absolute.”


Wednesday 14th, 12.23:


Here’s excerpts from UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis’s speech at TUC this morning.

He said: “Ordinary people had nothing to do with this financial crisis yet are now being made to pay the price

“The coalition is taking away their pay, privatising their jobs, there are daily rounds of redundancies, yet on top of this they now want to take away our pensions, the pensions our members worked for, the pensions our members saved for every week of their working lives, not for a life of luxury but for some basic security in retirement.

“Our members are no militants, striking is the last thing they want to do, but this is an unprecedented attack on ordinary working people, an audacious and devious means to pay for the greed of others.

“We’ve had enough. We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated, but there comes a time when we say enough is enough because if we don’t, they’ll be back for more . . . and more, and more.

“So today I want to make it clear to this coalition that we will negotiate any time, any place, anywhere but if they impose change by diktat, we will take industrial action.

“And today Brendan Barber has convened a meeting of all public service unions to look at co-ordinated industrial action when those talks fail.

“In moving to industrial action I commit UNISON to work as one with our sister unions the GMB and Unite, and I give formal notice to 9,000 employers that we are balloting for industrial action.

“A ballot unprecedented in scale will cover over a million workers in health, local government, school, FE, higher education, police, the voluntary sector and the environment and the private sector.

“It’s a decision we don’t take lightly. And the stakes are high. Higher than ever before but now is the time to make our stand. And it will be hard. We’ll be vilified, attacked, set against each other, public versus private, divide and rule, the oldest trick in the book.

“If this coalition is so worried about the people who use our services, they shouldn’t be closing them down. If they’re so worried about disruption, they shouldn’t be privatising them. If they’re so worried about the old, the sick or the young, stop shutting down care homes and start getting our young people into work and giving them a future.

“The fight of our lives may be an overused cliché but make no mistake, this is it.

“We will take the fight to them.  This is no time to despair, no time to look back. Let’s go forward, confident in our cause. A clear message from Congress: we are determined , we are united, fighting for what is right, fighting for our members. Hands off our pensions.”


Wednesday 14th, 12.46:


PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, whose union already has a mandate for strike action, said: “There is no case to make for changes to our pensions arrangements. If we are living longer, why can’t we have more time to enjoy retirement? That’s not civilisation. That’s working until you drop.

“This is daylight robbery dressed up with lies that the country cannot afford our pensions. In the six months we’ve been negotiating with the government, the government haven’t made a jot of progress, yet while we’ve been talking, they’ve changed pensions and announced increases for contributions.

“We are happy to talk to them, but while we’re talking we’re preparing for mass strike action to show them were serious.”

Warning of the government trying to divide public and private sector workers, he said: “Let us say this to workers in the public sector: it’s not us in the public sector who are exploiting you. You are being exploited by shareholders and fat cats. It’s a disgrace your pensions have been butchered but don’t equalise your misery, fight for fair pensions for all.

“If there are millions of us on strike in November and into the winter, we can win this battle. United we stand, and tell the government: “No”.


Wednesday 14th, 12.54:


Christine Blower, general secretary for NUT, which already has a mandate to strike, said: “We are ready to stand up for jobs, but the campaign for pensions is the one that unites us all because we know the cost of public sector pensions are fair affordable and reasonable.

“The government’s proposals are a raid on our pensions to fill a hole in the public finance, created by the bankers and deregulation, not by anyone in this hall.

“Enough is enough. United we can win. These are our pensions. They are fair. We must stand together, we must defend them and we must win on this for the whole of the public sector.”


Wednesday 14th, 13.04:


Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said her members were planning to attend a lobby of Parliament in October, but if the government refused to listen to their concerns, they would consider strike action.

“We stand for fair pensions for all, reasonable schemes in the public sector and reform in the private sector. We don’t want to strike, but ATL members are not in the mood for surrender. They believe in the power of reason, but if reason doesn’t work, teachers and lecturers will use their power in another way.”


Wednesday 14th, 13.11:


Even the moderate FDA, the union representing senior civil servants, was prepared to consider joining strike action.

General secretary Jonathan Baume said: “Our members are angry because the government isn’t even trying to negotiate with us. We might have no other option other than to ballot. There is still time for the government to engage with us, but it is running out.”


Wednesday 14th, 13.18:


Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said her union was to ballot its 250,000 public sector workers over pensions.

“Employers in the private sector have downgraded and closed pension schemes across every industry, and the public sector is looking to do the same.

“Unite is proud to announce that we are giving notice of our intention to ballot for industrial action. because we are determined to defend public sector pensions from this despicable race to the bottom.”


Wednesday 14th, 13.52:


Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, which is banned from taking industrial action, said his members were prepared to break the law to protect their pensions.

“We will defy anti-trade union laws and we will strike if there’s no deal to be found in these negotiations.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack warned his members would have to work so long to afford to retire they would become “zimmer frame firefighters.”

“Striking is a serious step that none of us want to tae, but we are being left with little alternative.

“Working people are being penalised because we’re not dying soon enough to suit the banking industry. We shall be balloting our members.”

The CWU’s deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: “Pension money doesn’t belong to government or to employers, but to working people.”

UCU Vice President Cathy Taylor said: “David Cameron tells us pensions are a burden on the taxpayer. Well, we are taxpayers. When government imposes changes, we will stand together to take industrial action.”

The GMB’s Brian Strutton said his union had already drawn up plans to ballot his union’s 300,000 public sector workers.

“Talks over many months on changes to pension for GMB members in public services have got nowhere.

“GMB will now ballot these members for authority to conduct a sustained campaign of industrial action to secure a settlement acceptable to GMB members.

“The dispute covers over 300,000 GMB members employed by local councils, by private contractors working in the public sector, by the NHS, and members employed in prisons, the civil service and further and higher education.

“GMB is only one of the many unions planning ballots for authority to take industrial action to begin in late November and to be sustained over the winter and into the spring and summer of 2012. GMB will co-ordinate action with the other trade unions involved in the dispute.

“We’re not talking about a day out and bit of a protest, but something that is long, hard and dirty, running through the winter, through the next year, following the government’s legislative programme.

“George Osborne is a man who likes having the whip hand, He’s not going to have them in these negotiations.”


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