TUC says 'manage economy like the Olympics'


Brendan Barber: "Just as the Olympics needed new infrastructure, so does the rest of the country"

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Trade union movement leader Brendan Barber is urging the government to "learn from the Olympics" in creating policies to boost the economy.

The TUC chief said the success of British athletes funded by public money show "private isn't always best and the market doesn't always deliver".

Mr Barber also argued the coalition has failed to learn the economic "lessons" of the 1930s and 1980s.

And he warned of possible strike action by public sector workers.

But he dismissed talk of a "general strike", as delegates prepare to discuss co-ordinated industrial action at the TUC's annual Congress, in Brighton, which lasts until Wednesday.

Mr Barber told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I'm certainly not talking about a general strike, but strikes in particular areas.

"Look, to have a strike, that comes from members, that comes from workers. Having a vote to decide that they feel so strongly about a grievance, a sense of injustice that they feel that course of action is justified and is necessary."

Mr Barber received a standing ovation from delegates at Brighton, where he was addressing his final TUC as general secretary.

He retires at the end of this year and will be replaced by Frances O'Grady, the first woman to fill the role in the organisation's 144-year history.

'Pulling together'

In his speech, Mr Barber said it was wrong of the government to say it "can't pick winners" in helping companies and instead leaving the market to decide.

He added: "Tell that that to Bradley [Wiggins], Jessica [Ennis] or Mo [Farah], all supported by targeted funding.

"Markets always trump planning, they say. Well look at the Olympic Park, the result of years of careful planning and public investment.

"Private is always better than public, they argue. Not true, as we saw all too clearly when it came to Olympic security.

Start Quote

She realised early on that women would play an increasingly significant part in a unionised workforce - and she was right, as today there are more women union members than there are men”

End Quote BBC Radio 4's Profile: Frances O'Grady

"Those summer weeks were a time when we really were all in it together. Not because we were told to be. But because we wanted to be. Athletes, workers, volunteers, spectators, residents, communities - all pulling together.

"The same spirit we have just seen during the Paralympics. And as we reflect on the wonderful achievements of our disabled athletes, let us not squander the potential of disabled workers."

Mr Barber said that "the central lessons of this summer - that private isn't always best and the market doesn't always deliver - surely need to shape future policy".

He added: "We can't muddle through greening our economy - we need investment, planning and an Olympic-style national crusade. We won't build up industrial strength unless we work out what we do best as a country, whether it's cars, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, or the creative industries, and help them do even better."

He went on to criticise the coalition's spending cuts programme.

Ministers insist the deficit needs to be tackled and that the public purse must be restrained to enable this.

But Mr Barber said: "It's clear that austerity simply isn't working. There has been no growth since the government came to power over two years ago. In effect the economy has become a gigantic laboratory."

Ane he warned of a "self-perpetuating economic nightmare" unless the coalition changes course.

"What we are staring in the face is many years of stagnation. Our own lost decades," he told delegates.

"And it won't be the West London rich who suffer. No, it will be the rest of us.

"The victims of a government that thinks it can buck the central lesson of economic history. That austerity simply begets more austerity."

The Congress will see debates on holding strike action over freezes to public sector wages, with marches planned for October in London, Glasgow and Belfast.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    i thought the country was being run like the olympics,
    inported people to carry the torch= immigrant workers taking the jobs. no seats available for the sport of your choice=no jobs for the qualifications you have. overpriced tickets purely for the profit= minimum wage purely for the profit for the employer.
    does that sound similar ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    Union mantra,unchanged since the 1970's.."FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO WORK.....ALL OUT ON STRIKE TOMORROW". They are either too stupid to realise, or more likely they simply do not care, that the vast majority of the thinking general public believe that the Unions are in a self defeating downward spiral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    I heard someone say recently that if it wasn't for the unions we would still be earning five bob a week. One of those statements one can't argue with as it is true. However, like most union supporters they omitted to say that whilst wages have gone up so has the price of stuff we buy to pay for the increased wages. When I was a kid a choccy bar was 3d (1p) - now it is 75p. Nice one unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    krokodil - Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC got a pay rise of £17,040 last year to take his annual remuneration to £139,634.

    Just to add he published a report on CEO's pension funds last week maybe he could do the same for himself & all the union General Secretaries & their cronies as they all have huge ones & he's going to live very well when he retires in a few weeks

  • Comment number 588.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    The Dinosaurs where I read basically wiped out due to a asteroid impact which cause climate change.
    what a pity that the Union Dinosaurs & the Jurassic types who support them, cannot see that these strikes will be their extinction event !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    No576 jl45,
    You say 'striking should be illegal'

    What would you do if workers decided not to sell their labour?

    Is 'slave labour' now UKIP official policy?

    Does Nigel know?

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    579. ToryBoy

    I think a little study would be of great benefit, it may even prevent you from making so many crass comments.

    Hahaha I stand by my crass comments.

    Which bit do you think is wrong? Class war being an irrelevant concept?

    You get professionals living on council estates and working class families in rural detached houses.

    Class only worries socialists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    @krokodil Yeah, but you're bright enough to recall that unions in the late '70s merely responded to a well-engineered assault on the working class which began with Tory's Oil Crisis + subsequent inflation. Rather than blaming the cause, the public (bright as never) blamed the backlash

    Blair&co.'s pre-leadership essays suggested a "please everyone" bottomless philosophy, not distancing from anyone

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    566. krokodil: "The concept of class divided them and us is no longer relevant."

    That's a ridiculous statement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    Mr Barber,

    The Olympians have recently been giving interviews. They take little credit for themselves and praise all of those who have helped them. I suppose it’s called teamwork. It’s how most of us try to work in the real world.

    Real union members have been working today, not giving speeches to the party faithful. You have scabbed enough from our funds and we have little to show for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    And then they voted for coordinated strikes, I've never seen a bunch of fools fall off a bandwagon so quickly in fact McKluskey called for "civil disorder" so if that happens during next months march we can expect him to be arrested for inciting a riot?!

  • Comment number 580.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 579.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 578.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    It is very strange Unions hate Thatcher so much. They created the environment which brought her to power....on a ticket to castrate the Unions. And its convenient to forget that she was elected by large support from....working class constituencies!

    And you helped make New Labour. Blair's lot had to distance from them to get electable again.

    Sad history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    striking should be illegal

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    @566.krokodil: Part-time degree #4 is law for me, and the answer seems simple:

    1) It is unions pushing for creation+protection of employment regs;

    2) Many employment rights are based on giving privileges to organised labour.

    The EU is particularly supportive of the latter. Successful industrial nations such as Germany (and unlike GB) understand the value of a content, united workforce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.


    I can assure you that I also devoted my efforts to being an excellent employee . I was in a union for 44 years and never had recourse to hide behind my Union's skirt as you infer all Trade Unionist do..

    Plus I always paid my union dues unlike the blacklegs who were still quite happy to take the pay rises and improved conditions that the Union negotiated for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    unions are only there for them selfs. lining there own pockets with high wages and parge pensions and imposing there ideals on us which are out dated. there was a time when the tuc congress was on the BBC but now no one takes a blind bit of notice of them ..unions just roll over and die


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