King's BOE Speech Draws `Lot of Interest' at TUC Talks Amid Union Boycott

Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber said Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s speech this week will attract “a lot of interest” from his members after one union leader pledged to boycott it.

“There will be a lot of interest in what he has to say,” Barber said on Bloomberg Television’s ‘On The Move’ with Francine Lacqua, in Manchester, England, where the union umbrella organization’s annual convention begins today. “People will be interested to hear how he sees the future.”

King’s speech on Sept. 15 will be the first by a Bank of England governor to the TUC since his predecessor, Eddie George, addressed the convention in 1998. Labor union leaders have asked the public to join millions of workers in a campaign to halt Prime Minister David Cameron’s spending cuts. King has backed the government’s plans to curb the record budget deficit.

“My view is, he shouldn’t be here,” Bob Crow, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, told reporters in Manchester yesterday. “I won’t be listening to him. I shall go to my stall when he’s on.”

Crow said that he didn’t want to hear calls for spending austerity from the governor. The subject of King’s speech hasn’t been released. Crow also said he isn’t organizing a walkout by his members.

“I would like to see a single unemployed person write a two-page document about how hard it is to survive on 67 pounds a week, not the governor of the Bank of England tell us we have to pull our belts in,” Crow said.

King’s Role

Barber stressed that King has no role in determining government spending. The TUC chief sits on the Bank of England’s executive board, known as the Court.

“The bank has no responsibility for these decisions on spending,” he said. “They are the responsibility of the government, but he does have responsibility for monetary policy and we’ve seen a real easing of monetary policy -- interest rates have been kept very low and quantitative easing to help keep the economy moving too.”

Barber’s TUC umbrella group represents more than 6 million workers, while Crow’s RMT union has about 80,000 members. Crow led a walkout by some union members during a speech by former Prime Minister Tony Blair at the TUC annual convention in 2006.

“We’re on a collision course between government and trades unions,” Neil Mackinnon, an economist at VTB Capital in London and a former U.K. Treasury official, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” with Andrea Catherwood today. “With the public-sector cuts that are being envisaged here for the British economy and people throughout the public sector undoubtedly losing their jobs, then it would be a great surprise if we didn’t see an upsurge in industrial action.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Scott Hamilton in London at shamilton8@bloomberg.net; Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net.

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