Unions have voted to back plans for co-ordinated strikes across the public sector, including the NHS, if the government refuses to relax its pay freeze.
The annual Trades Union Congress conference in Brighton voted to co-ordinate industrial action yesterday in a threat to ministers who imposed the two-year public sector pay freeze for those earning more than £21,000, which is due to last until April 2013.
The two largest unions GMB and Unison have revealed they are in talks to plan strike action if annual talks early next year are unsuccessful.
Teaching unions, the NUT and NASUWT, have also said they will begin a rolling programme of strike action starting in the autumn.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the TUC Congress “now was the time for action.”
He said: “We are never stronger than when we coordinate industrial action, when we speak with one voice.
“Yes, we will seek decent pay, fair pay. Yes, we will negotiate – that is what our membership expect us to do.
“But make no mistake, if employers refuse to negotiate; if the attacks continue – we will deliver the coordinated action called for.”
Downing Street rejected the strike threat and vowed not to change the policy on pay, which ministers have said is crucial to tackling the budget deficit.
The government has also said talks on pensions would not be re-opened.
Unions are planning major demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Belfast on 20 October against the coalition government’s spending cuts.