The new TUC general secretary Paul Novak has accused government Ministers of “sabotaging” efforts to resolve strike disputes.
The British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has hit back at the unions on Thursday warning them the government will not be “held to ransom” as a de-facto general strike looms.
Wallace insists that there is “no magic wand” to bring money out of fresh air to pay far above inflation pay rises, and refuses the UK to go “back to the 1970s.”
During a visit to Manchester Airport where the military have stepped in to cover Border Force staff striking, Wallace firmly rejected the idea of the government meeting with unions to negotiate on pay.
Currently the government use an independent pay review body for the public sector, but unions have signalled they could move away from this system, but the government will not ignore what they propose in their pay recommendations.
Wallace told reporters, “We’re not going back to the 1970s where the trade union barons thought that they ran the government.
“They used to meet in Downing Street and tell the Labour government of the day what they’re going to do.
“We’re not going to go back to that. We’re not going to be held to ransom.
“The trade unions can negotiate, they can negotiate with their employers and try and come to a resolution.
“That’s the most important thing. There’s no magic wand here to come up with money that the country doesn’t have.
“Ultimately we’re in a position where we’re trying to listen to the independent advice, through the independent pay bodies, offer a settlement to the workforces, and then try and bring that to a resolution, but if the trade union leadership think we’re all just going to ignore these independent bodies to suit their agenda then they’ll be mistaken.”
The new TUC chief said that the review bodies have to be “genuinely independent,” but they are currently being operated with their “hands tied” by this government.
Novak told Sky News, the strikes “could end tomorrow if the government was prepared for serious and sensible discussions about pay.
“Our unions will be continuing to talk in the new year about how we best support and coordinate unions taking that strike action.
“In some cases, that might mean unions taking strike action on the same day and in other cases it will be a rolling wave of industrial action.”
Novak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Our unions are looking very seriously at the pay review bodies and looking particularly at the way the government has used them effectively as a human shield in this discussion about public sector pay.
“The pay review body process itself is in danger of being brought into disrepute because the government is hiding behind the pay review bodies, refusing to negotiate on pay and refusing to reach a reasonable settlement with our public sector unions.”