London 2012: Unite's Olympics strike threat condemned


David Cameron: "Labour needs to condemn this utterly"

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Suggestions from the leader of the UK's biggest union that workers could strike during the London Olympics have been condemned by political leaders.

Len McCluskey, of Unite, told the Guardian that civil disobedience could be timed to disrupt the 2012 Games.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the idea "unacceptable and unpatriotic". Labour has also criticised Mr McCluskey's comments.

However, union sources told the BBC there were no specific strike plans.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC: "People will just be gobsmacked, appalled, at Mr McCluskey's remarks.

"At a time when we can showcase to the world that we are positively and optimistically putting on this fantastic event, he wants to bring people out on the streets."

The Liberal Democrat leader said to "mess up the Olympics to prove a point" would be bad for the country and called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to "rein in" Mr McCluskey, whose union is Labour's largest donor.

And Mr Cameron also told MPs that Labour "need to condemn this utterly and start turning back the money" from Unite.

Conservative co-chairman Baroness Warsi agreed, calling the comments "an appalling display of naked self-interest".

"It is disgraceful for a trade union boss to be calling for mass disruption when the eyes of the world will be on Britain," she told the BBC.

'Right to protest'

Mr McCluskey had told the Guardian: "If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that's exactly one that we should be looking at.

"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.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

"Our very way of life is being attacked. By then this crazy Health and Social Care Bill may have been passed, so we are looking at the privatisation of our National Health Service.

"The unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting."

Mr McCluskey said the purpose of protest was "to bring your grievances to the attention of as many people as possible".

However, Mr Miliband said: "Any threat to the Olympics is totally unacceptable and wrong.

"This is a celebration for the whole country and must not be disrupted."

Earlier, his deputy Harriet Harman had told the BBC it was inconceivable that union members would want to disrupt the Games.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: "Of course unions seek fair reward for the extra work and long hours that will be required during what will be the busiest ever time for public transport and other public services, and not all such negotiations have been concluded.

"But of course unions want a Games of which we can all be proud."

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said Unite insiders had played down the prospect of strikes, with one saying there was "nothing specific planned".

"They take the view Mr McCluskey was letting off steam at his frustrations with government policy but they are acutely aware [strike action] would be deeply unpopular and probably counter-productive," our correspondent added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    I want them to strike, it would demonstrate how intolerably stupid the left and the unions are and that they are only capable of gut reaction, bully boy tactics, the fools!! With any luck that will be the last we'll hear of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Good foir them, this olympics only, concerns London, other areas lost fuinding as a result, so unions may strike, awww, well boo hoo, in this climate we're not gonna take it, we're not gonna take it any more

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    This shows, yet again, what a self-centred bunch the Unions are. They have a political agenda well beyond representing their members to employers. Their politics was rejected at the last election when the Labour Party lost. Isn't it about time that they understood how democracy works instead of trying to impose the desires of a minority on the rest of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    The unions are a main reason we hardly have a manufacturing industry in this country, calling strikes in this economic climate is another nail in the UK jobs market Im all for a fair wage for a day's work but come on get real, keep people in work not ask them to strike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    I think this is disgraceful.

    Mr McCluskey says the purpose of protest was "to bring your grievances to the attention of as many people as possible".

    Isn't this the same purpose as terrorism? What he says seems a bit like inciting antisocial behaviour to me. He should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Milton Friedman advised free marketeers to use natural or man-made disasters to dismantle any restrictions on capital and to privatise. The NHS bill and the other ConDem policies of cuts and outsourcing are examples of this . McCluskey points out an opportunity to resist this strategy.Mr Miliband condemns it so as not to seem too left wing- do we learn nothing from the Blair years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    I am 100% behind McCluskey on this one! The country has been screwed with the costs of this minority sporting event from the beginning - time we made the fat cats LISTEN! As a country we are NOT happy with them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    Yes. I can see why unions would be castigated about slightly impacting Boris's BigSoc Sports Day in order to try and protect the long term interests of millions of people. How irresponsible of them for putting working peoples livelihoods in front of the 'hop, skip and jump'. We're all in this together, people! (Unless you live outside London, whereupon you just get to pay for it...)

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    @660. William

    Nail, Head.

    Just look at the loony left and rabid right venom, being spat out on this board.

    They dont have a half decent argument between them. The biased lack of historical knowledge from both sides would be funny if it were not so scary. I see no more than a handful of people attempting a meaningful discussion, who are being shouted down from both sides in a torrent of insults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    Typical union tactics. A minority seeking to feather their own nests at the expense of the majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    Some people spouting out about human freedom have so saturated this post with their own tired second-hand platitudes that they have deprived others of their right to free speech. Does anybody moderate this forum?

    (For information my second and last post on this topic)

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    Strikes are one thing - 'civil disobedience' is quite another.

    In August during the London riots, several people posted on social media sites saying people should take part in 'civil disobedience'.

    Those people were tracked down, arrested, charged and (in some cases) sent to jail.

    Len McCluskey has said exactly the same thing - why has he not been arrested?

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    Opportunistic strking is the sort of behaviour that sadly, many now associate with what is left of Britain, so nobody will be surprised,

    Mention patriotism and pride in one's country and wait for the inevitable ridicule.


  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    Thank you Mr McCluskey , all we need now is Bob Crow threatening to bring London to a standstill at the same time and the Unions would have set themselves back years . Bravo , you are this weeks winner of ' failing to put brain in gear before thinking ' award .

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    The Olympics will be a dangerous place, in the violent and economic sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    I really hope they do calla strike for 10+ days during the olpymic, to see someone call for someone to get the death penalty for fighting for ther rights just shows how naive and selfish people have come. If they dnt strike and prove a point the government will know they can do anything and we the public wont do anything to stop them. Would everyone be happy for us to go in a nuclear war with iran

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    The looney left is alive and well
    Mind you I wish that the Olmpics had been won by Paris, allowing those who wanted to go a short trip to see the Games & avoiding the massive debt to tax payers. The Olympics will benefit one borough in london & the rest of the country will pay the price. I'm looking forward to pressing the off button on my tv when the coverage starts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    This government is wasting millions of pounds to support these pointless Olympic Games, whilst at the same time privatising the NHS and putting millions on the dole queue. There will never be a better time protest. Two weeks of pointless pantomime or the NHS, no contest!

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    There is no question here about the 'right to protest' which should obviously be upheld. There is however, a question of ill timing and doing what is in the best interests the country.

    The irony here is the potential alienation of people in full support of the right to protest who may find themselves asking the question: 'surely Unite shouldn't be allowed to strike over this period?'

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    Given the us and them approach prevalent in business management (some have eye watering remuneration packages while most are going backwards), I am not at all surprised at people who will be feeling a lot of economic pain taking the opportunity to exert a bit of leverage to improve their lot. At senior management level it is being done evry day.


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