The U.K. government was on Monday bracing itself for a series of strikes and street protests after trade unions warned of “coordinated” industrial action against plans to cut public spending that, they said, would result in an estimated 150,000 job losses.
Chancellor George Osborne plans to cut £60 billion from next year's budget and has ordered all departments to come up with savings of between 25 to 40 per cent in order to help the government deal with the £155-billion budget deficit.
Details of the cuts would be announced next month but unions and Labour Party say these are “ideologically-driven” as part of the Tories' policy to reduce the size of the state.
In a sign of growing confrontation, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), meeting for its annual conference in Manchester, adopted a motion calling for “joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, in opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services”.
The motion, which received overwhelming backing of delegates, described the proposed cuts as a “savage and opportunistic attack on public services” and said it went “far further than even the dark days of Thatcher” referring to the measures taken in 1980s by the then Tory Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to drastically reduce public spending.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber warned the government plans would make Britain “a darker, brutish, more frightening place”.
Bob Crow, leader of the powerful Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union (RMT), called for a “civil disobedience” campaign but more moderate activists said such a move would be “counter-productive”.
Downing Street offered to work with the unions.
“We need to deal with the deficit, we want to work with everyone in tackling that,” said Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman.
Liberal Democrats, who are the Tories' coalition partners, had opposed cuts on such a large scale when in opposition.