TUC leader warns of privatisation battles on eve of annual Congress

5 Sep 02
The leader of Britain's trades union movement this week stepped up the campaign to halt the privatisation of public services, when he warned Tony Blair not to 'charge ahead' with reforms 'assuming he has an army behind him'.

06 September 2002

Gearing himself for a fractious annual Trades Union Congress in Blackpool next week, John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, told Public Finance that union dissatisfaction with Labour's privatisation policy was at its peak. He warned that more strike action was a likely result of the unions' planned opposition to the Private Finance Initiative and public-private partnerships. 'There's plenty of dissatisfaction around… and the prime minister is well advised to listen to it. He's walked on water for an extended honeymoon period.'

But Monks denied that industrial action would be on a scale similar to the 1979 'winter of discontent'.

The three public sector unions involved in this year's local government strike, Unison, the GMB and the T&G, have all lodged motions attacking Labour's planned expansion of the PFI in sectors such as health and education. Unison leader Dave Prentis said: 'If our anti-privatisation motion is passed this year, it will be the first time the TUC has come out against PFI. We will then be in a strong position to say to the government, "think again".'

But Mike Terry, industrial relations expert at Warwick Business school, said the unions' opposition was likely to fall on deaf ears because 'the government is almost ideologically predisposed towards the use of private contractors in the public sector'.

See feature 'Profile –John Monks – Going, going, but not gone, by Mark Conrad'


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