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 1123.

    Nice, just shows how devious the unions have become. It's not about preventing exploitation and poor working conditions, it is all about extracting as much political and financial gain for themselves as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    JF - well said! Image is everything in world trade - our name stinks without seeing Lefties without real alternative running through streets scaring foreign investors who may save our jobs. Let's be proud & advertise what the PC brigade has left of what was Great Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    So £500 bonus for working during the Olympics isn't enough? I wonder how many other people get a bonus for working shifts they usually would be during the Olympics, I certainly won't.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    Whether you are in favour of the Olympics or not, they still shine as a beacon of nations cooperating and understanding one another. This union should think of what the Olympic rings are supposed to symbolise. Any strike would be an attack on this and its UK political intent would just be lost leaving their leader and its striking members being seen as selfish opportunists.
    Grow up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    Where is the good old days when unions fought for the workers rights, this to me is just a loud bark to get a bit of celebrity status! (seeing the police, newspapers and government is getting all the attention; not to forget silent movies!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    There are so many outraged comments on here accusing Mcluskey of, amongst other things, threatening to make the country a laughing stock around the world if there are strikes during the Olympics. He isn`t the threat to the Olympics, what is going to make Britain a laughing stock is the chaos that is going to be caused by the inability of our transport services to cope

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    Sorry, lets just remember who signed us up to holding the Olympics, if I'm right wasn't it the chuckle brothers Blair and Brown who also managed to get us in to the banking and debt crisis we have today. Funny how unions have such short memories!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    - And there I was, looking forward to a small glimpse of celebration and unashamed patriotism following years of worry, uncertainty and insecurity. Thankyou McCluskey for reminding me that I shouldn't get grand ideas of a minor reprise from the mundane rountine of just getting by by ruining a worldwide celebration un-marred by capitalism, religion or terrorism be given the option to just 'be'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    "people so destitute they risk life to steal railway cables" - no, they are just desperate criminals. A country with an obesity crisis the size of ours is not short of food, just greedy. Please don't try and make out that we are struggling with poverty and starvation, it's quite offensive to people in countries that are. The Unions are guilty of this kind of rhetoric too. (on topic. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    No 'Weekender', society stole our childerns future and whats more, delighted in it, every year borrowing more. Society only complained when it suddenly realised it was going to feel some of the consequences for itself. Even now, the socialist response is simply to move onto the grandchildern and bankrupt them

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    This amounts to blackmail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.


    Are you gobsmaked and appalled that you agree with Nick Clegg or at the unions :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    1 Hour ago

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

    Just like the bankers. But you wouldn't hear that from the right-wing press - it's ok for bankers to be greedy, but not the unions. While I generally support the unions, demanding extra pay for the olympics is as bad as the bankers who believe they have a right to bonuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    The olympics is what we need to unite again as a country as we are repeatedly labelled as "a broken society". It's about time we focused on the positives and actually, it will be nice to be able to do something fun for change instead of hearing all the moans and groans that are going on at the moment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    Conservative co-chairman Baroness Warsi: Strike threat is "deeply irresponsible and hugely selfish"

    I assume therefore she means thatTories are NOT selfish or totally irresponsible. REALLY!!

    When will reality actually kick in with minds that think like that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1108.

    717 BradfordBelle.
    Here here! I for one am wondering how many of your down votes have come from insisde the M25. Boris et al.. No-one up here actually gives a rats posterior for national sports day, all we see is the damage it will cause.
    Finish paying for the reforms which are currently being axed left right and center, then when the country is fixed then we can have that egg and spoon race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1107.

    It's surprising that so many posters see unions as a self-interested group that somehow works against workers. The same posters fly to the defence of a corporate junket from which ordinary people are largely excluded.
    Unions represent us and action during the Olympics is one of the few chances when ordinary people have the power to influence the powerful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    The only people who are going to reap any benefit from the Olympics are big business and a few people in the south of England, The money could have been spent on something more beneficial to the country as a whole, fully behind the unions on any actions over the Olympic period or after

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    Would love to see an all out general strike during the olympics to be honest

  • rate this

    Comment number 1104.

    For once I agree with Nick Clegg - I am gobsmacked and appalled


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