New prime minister Gordon Brown faces a tide of industrial unrest and increasing union pressure as he finally gets his feet under the Downing Street desk this week.
Hundreds of thousands of local government workers are set to vote on a strike over pay. Delegates at Unison’s conference in Brighton last week decided to ballot about 800,000 members in the sector. It has rejected a 2% pay offer, insisting it wants a minimum of 5% or £1,000.
The move makes it increasingly likely that Brown will face a summer of discontent with local government, civil service, teachers’ and NHS unions co-ordinating strikes. The Public and Commercial Services union has already discussed joint action with other unions, probably planned for September.
The first postal strike in over a decade is also looming. Last-ditch talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union broke up last week without agreement, with a one-day strike set for 29 June.
Union leaders warned that Labour risked alienating workers and losing the next election if it continued with the privatisation of public services.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, told a Unite conference in Bournemouth: “A vision of good work must be at the heart of the new prime minister’s programme – recognition that the workplace is as much about social justice as economic competitiveness.”