TUC says spending cuts are cruel and unfairly targeted


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The head of the union movement will accuse the Government today of hitting those who had least to do with the financial crisis hardest by instituting cost cutting that "makes Margaret Thatcher look like a spendthrift".

In a keynote speech to the Trades Union Congress, the general secretary, Brendan Barber, will accuse ministers of using the cover of public spending cuts to permanently reduce the size of the state.

Meanwhile the head of Britain's largest public sector union, Unison, warned yesterday that public sector strikes would go ahead if no progress was made on the issue of pensions.

Speaking on Sky News, Dave Prentis said: "Industrial action is the last resort. [If our members] are to be treated in this way, well I've got no doubt whatsoever that they will vote for industrial action."

The Independent has also learned that prison officers will go to the European Court of Human Rights this week to demand the right to strike. They have been forbidden from doing so since 1994.

An application will be lodged with the court by the Prison Officers' Association. Its general secretary said: "The right to strike is a basic human right ... I am confident the courts will rule in our favour."

As the TUC gets under way, the leader of the Unite union issued a stark warning to the Government that "continued attacks" on workers' pay, jobs and pensions would provoke unrest. Len McCluskey said: "We rule nothing in or nothing out. From civil disobedience to industrial action, this is the moment we defend what is decent and fair."

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said while he expected "sabre-rattling" from the trade unions, the important thing was that both parties were committed to the negotiations.

"I'm fully committed to these discussions that we are having with the trade unions to try and make sure that we can get to a position where we reach reforms that everyone agrees are necessary," he said.

Mr Barber will say today that the government's economic policies are failing, as they have choked off the growth that will reduce the deficit.

"The Coalition has set the cruel and mistaken objective of getting rid of the deficit in just four years. This is not just austerity – it is austerity on speed, rashly carried out at a time when yields on UK debt are at historic lows," he will say. "We've seen the deepest cuts in the UK since the 1920s and cuts that would make even Margaret Thatcher look like a spendthrift."

He will say the cuts are being unfairly targeted at those least able to adapt. "We were told 'we are all in this together'. But ... the less you had to do with causing the crash, the bigger the price you are having to pay."