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U.K.’s Cameron Meets Labor Unions as Unite Leader Backs Students

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron met with union leaders today to discuss the economy and cuts to public services as the labor groups plan coordinated action against the government’s deficit-reduction plan.

The meeting at Cameron’s London office, which was requested by the unions, came after Len McCluskey, the new leader of Unite, the U.K.’s biggest union, said workers should be inspired by student protests against higher tuition fees.

“The magnificent students’ movement urgently needs to find a wider echo if the government is to be stopped,” McCluskey wrote in the Guardian newspaper today. “We have to be preparing for battle.”

The government plans to make ordinary people pay for a crisis caused by bankers, McCluskey wrote, and public-spending cuts, increased charges and job losses require the union movement to defend the welfare state and Britain’s industrial future. The Trades Union Congress will hold a conference early in 2011 to discuss coordinated action, and unions must “rebuild working-class confidence,” McCluskey said.

“We don’t want to see coordinated strike action; we want to engage in a constructive dialogue with the unions,” Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, told reporters before the meeting. “We obviously have a different view” on the need for cuts, Field said, “and it’s important that we make our case.”

There are no plans to change legislation governing strike action, Field said. McCluskey, who was scheduled to attend today’s meeting, wrote in the Guardian that unions should not allow laws against coordinated action to “paralyze” them.

A demonstration by the TUC on March 26 will be a key stage in developing union members’ willingness to take strike action in defense of jobs and services, the union chief said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net; Alan Purkiss in London at apurkiss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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