By John Millington
TRADE UNIONISTS moved a step closer to calling a general strike after a fierce debate at the TUC congress today.
Delegates overwhelmingly supported Motion 5, which calls on the general council of the TUC to consider the “practicalities” of a general strike.
Earlier delegates had voted to continue coordinated action to stop government attacks on living standards.
Speaking exclusively to the Dreadnaught following the vote, motion mover Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan said: “The POA are delighted that the TUC will now consider the practicalities of a general strike, including all the legalities surrounding a political protest against austerity measures.”
And Mr Gillan said he had a message for ministers watching congress proceedings.
“The clear message I would like to send to ministers is that the trade union movement will not be bullied and I would encourage them now to look at alternatives to austerity,” he added.
Passionate exchanges took place during the hotly contested issue with speakers for and against.
Seconding the motion, RMT general secretary Bob Crow told congress: “Every single person is representing someone today under attack from this government.”
“Yes we can carry on protesting but what else are we gonna do.”
“If we are getting hit by spears we have to put up our shields.”
And PCS national vice president John McInally from the rostrum added that the TUC should consider a date for a general strike “as soon as possible” after the October 20th mass demonstration.
The government is running a hate campaign against the disabled and unemployed “We now can send out a message of hope to stop this austerity.”
Others however raised concerns about both the practicalities of a general strike and the lack of desire amongst union members as a whole.
Airline pilots’ union Balpa speaker Jim McAuslan pointed out the low union membership amongst the private sector, standing at around 15 percent.
“The reality is and for my own association – this would not be seen as a general strike – it would be seen as a public sector strike,” he said.
Lecturers union ATL leader Dr Mary Bousted warned that passing the motion would be “a gift” to the government who would simply roll out further anti trade union laws.
However responding to the arguments against the motion , Ucatt speaker Chris Murphy in his last address to TUC, stole the show reminding delegates of the first general strike in 1926 and the miners struggle in 1984.
“We should be calling it for October 20th not having a demo,” he said.
“If you go down the road of opposing the motion then there is no fight and we need one.”