Public-sector cuts mean widespread strikes, warn unions

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Cuts to the public sector will result in extensive co-ordinated strike action, unions warned at the weekend. Some of Britain's largest trade unions said that while no definite mandates can be made before the election, they are prepared to take synchronised industrial action, should severe public-sector cuts be announced.

Unison, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the National Union of Teachers are among those gearing up to take immediate action following the election.

The universal message coming from trade unions is that the UK needs the public sector, and that this plays a unique and crucial role creating employment in small, struggling communities; a role which leading economists believe is preventing Britain from plunging back into recession.

The NPC insists that the public sector must remain government-owned. A spokesman said: "We only have to look at the absolutely shocking privatised care system, where workers are under-trained and under-paid, to know we need to avoid the privatisation of our public services. Private companies provide work on the cheap, resulting in a poor service where the only winners are the company owners."

Unions claim that the Government is making "easy cuts" by targeting the already strained public sector, instead of focusing on maintaining policies such as the bonus tax and bank levies.

Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (below), said: "The NUT reminds all the political parties that public-sector cuts never heal. Cutting education funding will irretrievably harm children and young people, particularly the poorest ones.

Furthermore, teachers will not stand by and see their pay and pensions attacked. Whichever government comes to power needs to heed this message."

Similarly, the PCS, which is already in dispute with the Government over slashes in the redundancy packages being offered, said it is now prepared to extend its dispute and will fight tooth and nail against any changes to the public sector.

Although disappointed, the PCS says it is not surprised that further cuts are in the pipeline, and that the current proposals simply further its resolve to oppose any cutbacks.

While unions are not organising further national rallies or strikes before the general election on 6 May, they are making it clear that after that date, whoever the new government may be, public-sector cuts will result in wide-scale protests, disruptions and strikes.

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