TUC chief warns of wildcat walkouts by public sector


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Any attempt by the Government to toughen strike laws could result in wildcat walkouts by public-sector workers causing mass disruption across the country, the head of Britain's union movement warns today.

Describing any move to restrict the right to strike as "utterly unjustified", Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said new laws would result in frustrated workers taking matters into their own hands. Mr Barber, speaking ahead of the TUC's annual conference next week, said unions would decide by the end of October whether to take action against planned increases to public sector pension contributions.

"I am not complacent that we might face changes to strike laws," he said in an interview with i. "They would be utterly unjustified and we will resist them very, very fiercely.

"If they do try and change the law, the Government would run a real risk of provoking more groups of workers to think, 'We'll go down different routes – we won't have ballots. We'll carry out wildcat responses.' That would make strikes much more difficult to deal with."

Next week's TUC conference is likely to be the most charged for years as it comes in the middle of critical negotiations between ministers and the unions over pension reform. The Government is insisting that public-sector workers significantly increase the contributions they pay into state-controlled pension schemes by next April, to raise £1.3bn in extra revenue for the Treasury.

Workers were already being asked to accept reforms which would significantly reduce the value of schemes such as pensions based on career average earnings and a later retirement age, Mr Barber said. Increasing pension contributions at the same time, he suggested, represented "a tax on ublic sector workers".

"It's hugely provocative. We have seen action taken by some unions at the end of June and others are very, very actively considering whether they will have to take the industrial action course as well."