Britain’s largest trade union on Tuesday warned it would consider staging industrial action during this year’s London Olympic Games, threatening travel chaos for visitors.
Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey told the Guardian newspaper that the scale of the government’s public spending cuts meant that the showpiece games, which begin on July 27, were “absolutely” a legitimate target for strikers.
“The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable,” he said. “Our very way of life is being attacked.”
“I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting,” he added. “If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at.”
McCluskey went on to say that no firm plans had been drawn up, but that London bus drivers were “examining what leverage points we have”.
Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said she was “shocked” by the threat and demanded that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband speak out against the union boss.
“This is an appalling display of naked self-interest by Labour’s biggest financial backer,” said Warsi.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) on Tuesday raised the stakes in its dispute with Transport for London — the local government body responsible for most of London’s transport system — over staff pay during the games.
Many RMT members work for London’s underground train system, and any indication they could stage a walkout during the event would cause panic among games’ organisers.
Unite, which boasts 1.5 million members, was formed by a merger between two of Britain’s leading unions, the T&G and Amicus, and represents workers in various trades.
Unions claimed that two million public sector workers joined a strike in November last year over government plans to weaken their pension rights as part of its programme to reduce its budget deficit.