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 1183.

    Surprising ? Not at all. The only surprise is that it took this long for some dinosaur of a union leader to come up with this idea. Simple solution if it goes ahead. Give the Olympics to France where I wish they had gone in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    Good for them! I back the Unions 100%. This farce of a event is there to profit the sponsors, paid for in part by the taxpayers of London and the UK taxpayer.

    Its a excellent chance to make a stand and show the world that UK citizens have the right to demonstrate and we are standing up and together.

    Time to make a stand!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    Baroness Warsi, being well versed in appalling displays of naked self-interest, is well placed to make such comments! Power to your elbow Len.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    Good. The utter farce of the Olympics staged by hypocritical, theiving millionaire politicians make me sick. The only ones who will benefit will be them, and the companies who have bought into this £10 billion rip off of the public under the pretext of `national pride'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    This government is all about its public image abroad. They have an arrogance paid for by the suffering of our people, We pay for their image. We are the highest payers of tax in the EU we have crippling debts and job losses and these multi millionaires are saying we are all in this together. Rubbish they are fooling nobody but themselves. So what if we dent their image we are paying for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    "The Olympics has created jobs."

    And are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that the handful of jobs - primarily in London - created by this junket offsets the THOUSANDS of public sector jobs lost and lives ruined throughout the UK by the Condems' utterly unnecessary austerity pogrom?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.

    What I don't like is the tube workers using the games to drain more money. Do you feel like you're missing it? If you're already working you're not exactly going to be watching it are you! If you go on strike again you should all be made redundant and be replace with people who actualy want a job and will do it without complaining. Trust me there are alot of people out there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    These outrageous comments amount economic terrorism. If ever there was proof that Unite was a communist dominated bunch of subversives, then this is it.

    I hope most trade unionists do not support this awful man in his quest to bring the country to its knees.

    Some things must be above this sort of despicable attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    If the strikes go ahead during the Olympics, it will be an embarrassment for all concerned, not just the Govt. Often we hear the claim from politicians that sport and politics don't mix. Well, here's a chance for the left and right to work together during a period of uplift for national spirits. After that they can go back to their petty acrimony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    I agree Unite is completely in the wrong but Cameron telling Miliband to turn away money from Unite over this is pretty laughable. Perhaps he could when the Tories start turning away money from their various discredited donors like the bankers and Ashcroft?

    Please, Cameron, lead by example, I'd love nothing more than to see money taken out of politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    I cannot believe what I have read.Totally unacceptable comments from a member of the UK community.He should be helping to promote this event not making threats of disrupting it. Surely this event will generate more revenue of the UK and create more employment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    I agree that that the threat of strike action during the Olympics is not ideal the fact is that the workers of of this country are being screwed by this government. An example of this is the ambulance service they have been on a two year pay freeze and the government has said that they can have a 1% pay rise whilst giving the unemployed a rise of 5.2% and the unemployed get housing benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    I would fully agree that strike action during the Olympics will look bad for UK PLC, and will be opposed by much of the population. I am nervous that the government may take advantage of this to put through potentially sensitive proposals - can we come to a deal whereby the unions will not strike, but the government in turn will not progress any disputed proposals for the duration as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    McCluskey's pretty clever in this - it's not a strike "threat", it's a "suggestion". Doing this he's got the full attention of the frothing press and rentaquote's like Baroness Warsi for the important stuff, like Cam &co trying to dismantle the NHS. I'm a Unite member and have no intention of striking during the London Olympics, that said, I've not taken a second mortgage for the tickets either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    Mr McLuskey, please can you tell us how much you earn including your gold plated pension and benefits then tell us how you can still relate the man on the street. This is a once in a life time event and I would be proud to do a job like theirs, if they don't want it I suggest they give it to someone that does - let's work together and shown the world we are still a force to be reckoned with

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    How can union members put up with this guy !oh i forgot they want a huge salary just like he gets . never mind the rest of the uk and the thousands of jobless . plus give the world a good laugh , they think we are soft in the head as it is .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    LABOUR bid for the Olympics not the Tories.LABOUR failed to reel in Retail Banks when Brown was warned by M King to do so & LABOUR paid public sector workers FAR too much money hence why they now have sense of entitlement AND created a welfare state with no money to pay for it. There is NOT poverty in this country (don't insult Africa) only greedy people who now expect what they don't deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    A big credibility problem for Mr McCluskey now? He says the Olympics "...provide us with an opportunity...", then his union say (on the qt) that striking during the Olympics would be "...deeply unpopular and probably counter productive..." I think any widespread support for public sector unions is probably dissipating quickly now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    The managers have time to train replacements but then they would scream it costs too much, they could also ban holidays over the period especially for themselves so they can step in or miss using their own tickets to the events. Where there is a will it can be done, potentially they could negotiate in good faith as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    The threat to strick dunring the Olympics just underlines the Unions greed.
    They will loose what little public support they do have if they keep on thinking only about themselves no matter what the expense.

    Like the greedy tube drivers turning down the £500 bonus they dont deserve. Fire the lazy over paid soods.


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