Unison supports European day of anti-cuts action

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s biggest public sector trade union has called on the labour movement to join a Europe-wide day of action in September in protest against government spending cuts.

Unison, which has 1.3 million members, said solidarity among unions fighting the government’s plans to slash public spending as it tackles a budget deficit running at 11 percent of national output, should be extended across Europe.

Joint campaigns between individual British unions and those in Europe are rare due to differences in the way they operate -- with workers in countries such as Germany having a history of greater cooperation with industry.

Unison said the Trades Union Congress (TUC) should back the European Trade Union Confederation’s planned “European Day of Action” on September 29, which includes a rally in Brussels timed to coincide with a meeting of European Union finance ministers.

“The cuts now proposed will devastate public services with a consequent decline in living standards for all,” Unison said in a motion tabled for debate at the TUC conference in September, calling for the mobilisation of “maximum opposition.”

The list of motions included many calling for a united defence of public sector jobs, pay and pensions in the face of the coalition government’s planned cuts, which will see most departmental budgets reduced by at least 25 percent.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants, also called for a day of action on October 20, when the government is due to publish its spending review detailing the cuts.

Britain’s general union the GMB said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government should consult union representatives as part of the spending review.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives have a traditionally frosty relationship with trade unions, inflamed by tough anti-union legislation in the 1980s.

Cameron declined a controversial invitation to address the congress and the TUC has since cancelled an invite for LibDem Business Minister Vince Cable to speak, in favour of sending a delegation to meet with him privately.

The PCS reiterated the need for joint union industrial action, a move supported by the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT), which has previously called for Greek-style protests.

The RMT said the TUC conference would be the launch-pad for a coordinated fight against the cuts.

“Our defence must be built on generalised strike action and community resistance,” said RMT general secretary Bob Crow, predicting the biggest public mobilisation since anti-poll tax riots in the 1980s.