Summer of discontent: UK's biggest union 'absolutely' willing to arrange 'national strike'

15 June 2022, 19:17 | Updated: 15 June 2022, 19:58

Christina McAnea told LBC's Andrew Marr she would support coordinated action
Christina McAnea told LBC's Andrew Marr she would support coordinated action. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

The head of Britain's biggest trade union would "absolutely" be willing to coordinate a summer of discontent strike with others.

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Unison general secretary Christina McAnea told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that cooperation on striking between the unions would be possible.

It comes as fears grow of mass strike action ruining Brits' summers with a set of rail strikes imminently coming down the line.

Andrew asked Ms McAnea about the prospect of a "summer of discontent", a kind of "national strike", and if she would be willing to work with other unions to coordinate strikes at the same time.

"I would certainly not rule that out," Ms McAnea said.

"In all the sectors where we organise, we will definitely be talking to the other unions but also, through the TUC [Trades Union Congress]… yeah, I would absolutely be up for coordinating this across other unions."

Half of Britain's rail lines will have to shut as strikes over June 21, 23 and 25 bring them grinding to a halt.

Read more: Thousands more rail staff balloted over strikes as biggest ever walkout looms

That takes place during Glastonbury and the Rolling Stones' planned gig at Hyde Park - though Mick Jagger has tested positive for Covid.

Elton John is due to play in London's Hyde Park on June 24 and June 25, respectively.

England will take on New Zealand in a cricket test match in Leeds between June 23 and 27, and the British Athletic Championships will be held in Manchester between June 24 and 26.

The final GCSE exams will also take place up to June 28.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union [RMT] is striking after a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association has also announced more strike ballots at rail companies, increasing the threat of more summer disruption.

Ms McAnea confirmed to Andrew if the new pay offer to health workers is deemed insufficient, she would encourage them to strike too.

Read more: New map shows rail strikes set to cripple network - which lines will be affected?

"If, as we think, the offer might be something around 3%, I would certainly be recommending to our members and to our senior negotiators who represent the nurses, the care workers, the health care assistants, that they seriously consider taking strike action.

"I just don't think we've got any option.

"Believe me, no trade union and certainly the people we represent that provide such essential services, none of us take strike action lightly. It will always be a last resort and we will always try negotiate with the Government, with employers, to get a better deal for these essential workers."

She said pay rises are important because healthcare workers are struggling to make ends meet.

Ms McAnea also said she could understand that Labour, as it looks to gain an advantage over the Tories, was not fully endorsing the actions, calling for a settlement to be reached.