London 2012: Unite's Olympics strike threat condemned
- 29 February 2012
- From the section UK
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 Guardianthat 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.
"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.