Orchestrated Industrial Action

Kay Carberry from the TUC responds to inflammatory newspaper headlines which claim that “orchestrated industrial action” is on the agenda at the TUC Conference, and she argues for an investment-led policy to put young people into work. Broadcast at 08:35 on Monday 13th September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PS: You may have seen the headlines this morning about union leaders, various ones, calling for orchestrated industrial action. Are we going back to nineteen seventy nine? (MUSIC: Ian Dury – Hit me with your rhythm stick. ) Hopefully not. But they are calling for action. Let’s speak to Kay Carberry who’s the TUC Assistant General Secretary. She’s in Manchester at the TUC Congress. Morning Kay.
KC: Morning.
PS: All the headlines this morning about strike action, orchestrated strikes, and very very upset union leaders over the cuts that are taking place. What do you think?
KC: Well it’s possible that we are heading for some difficult disputes, but strikes only take place after the workers concerned have voted in a majority in a ballot. So we’ll see what happens. But what we’re doing today is launching a big campaign that we hope the public will hear. We called it altogether for public services, and what we’re arguing is that the scale of the cuts that are contemplated, and the pace of the cuts, are going to damage the UK economy, and are going to mean that people up and down Britain are going to see the public services that they depend on disappearing or being severely cut back.
PS: But Kay, our economy is damaged, isn’t it? That’s why we’re in this mess. We’ve got to get out of it. I mean, are these union leaders living in nineteen seventy nine? Do they not know what the scale of the problem and the debt that we’re in.
KC: We are in a debt .. a big debt problem, and we do have to get out of it. We’re not ignoring that. We’re arguing that we need a more sensible time scale. We should not be making cuts immediately on the scale that’s contemplated, because that’s going to do enormous damage. It’s going to mean that we might not be able to hang on to the fragile economic .. the fragile recovery, that we’re in at the moment. We might be pushed back into recession. We’re arguing that there’s another way of doing it. We would like to see more investment in growth, more help for companies, so that we can sustain jobs, so that we can get all those young people who are already out of work, back into jobs. We’d like to see more action on tax avoidance, for example. We could bring more money back into our economy. There is another way to deal with the deficit. Pushing hundreds of thousands of people out of work, in the public sector, and the knock on effects in the private sector, which will mean even more job losses, is not the way to do it.
PS: Would you .. would you like to take this opportunity to condemn those within your movement that have called for orchestrated strike action? That’sĀ illegal surely, isn’t it?
KC: Well no worker goes on strike lightly. But where you get people pushed into a corner, where they’re experiencing years of pay freezes, pay reductions, and now threats to their jobs, they may well feel that that is the only option they’ve got.
PS: Are you condemning it? I’m sorry, I missed .. or not? Are you condoning it?
KC: Well of course I’m not condemning any worker who votes in a properly constructed ballot …
PS: But orchestrated strike action.
KC: … because the right to strike is a very fundamental human right.
PS: But orchestrated strike action is illegal, isn’t it Kay?
KC: Well there’s no such thing as orchestrated strike action …
PS: But that’s the call this morning from some people.
KC: .. because nobody can .. no union can simply call workers out on strike. But there is a lot of anger out there, and if properly conducted strike ballots are carried out, and workers vote to go on strike, of course the TUC will support them.
PS: Kay Carberry is the TUC Assiatnt General Secretary at their Union Congress in Manchester. It doesn’t bode well, does it? It looks like quite a bit of action on the way, and some upset times.