Public sector strikes set for November 30th

By Ian Dunt

Millions of public sector staff could walk out on November 30th, as unions gear up for the climax of their fight with the government over pensions.

Ten unions are balloting for strike action on that day, adding to the four unions who have already balloted prior to strike action earlier this year.

"Undoubtedly this will be the biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation," TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said.

"Further consideration is being given to what other actions might be appropriate beyond that day of action if a settlement isn't secured."

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “It is extremely disappointing that the TUC is calling on union members to lose a day’s pay and go on strike while serious talks, which were set up at their request, are very much still ongoing. "

Strike action over public sector pensions will be far more extensive than previously thought, according to union leaders at the TUC conference.

While analysts had predicted another one day strike in November over changes to the system, a union leader suggested industrial action would be far more varied and disruptive.

Speaking to the BBC earlier, a union leader said: "The idea that we will have a one-day dispute, marching around town with a few flags… ain't going to do it."

Asked whether there would be several one-day strikes on a national basis, he replied: "Yep."

He added: "In some areas there will be two or three days. In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.

"There are lists that are being drawn up of targeted areas."

The comment drew an instant reaction from Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who said the public "will be very fed up if there are widespread strikes which close schools and affect health services and transport".

Mr Barber said that ministers needed to bring a new approach to the negotiating table, however, after months of talks where limited progress has been made.

"I and all of our unions most certainly do not take this step lightly," he added.

"We remain absolutely committed to seeking to resolve this through genuine negotiations."

The developments come a day after Ed Miliband was heckled at the conference for suggesting that strikes were inappropriate while talks are still ongoing.

Many union representatives say the talks are a piece of theatre and that the real decisions have already been made.

The last strike over public sector pensions took place in June, with hundreds of thousands of workers joining the action and a large and good-natured march working its way through central London.

The TUC will debate several motions on increases to employee contributions before the conference ends later today.

Unite, Unison and the GMB, which constitute the biggest unions in the country, are understood to be on the verge of announcing a strike ballot on the issue.