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.

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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”

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"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 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 566.

    The Pro Union comments, wondering where all your support has gone.

    Look, Trade Unions are stuck in the past. The concept of class divided them and us is no longer relevant.

    They flexed their muscles in the 1970's, and in doing so, smashed the Labour party and opened the door to Thatcher.

    Why pay to join a Union, when any employment lawyer can now use Laws far more effectively for individuals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    We have been running the country like the Olympics. Whatever budget has been set, we have exceeded it. The only difference is that unfortunately we can not hand our deficit over to Rio to take on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Heartily sick and tired of all these self-righteous public sector folk moaning and whining.If you do not like your T&C,go find another job or be grateful for the fact that you are not one of the millions without a job but who would very much like to have one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    I'm all for Unions, but why is their solution always about striking. It's like a small child ripping up it's schoolbooks because it can't answer the question, crossing it's arms, stamping it's feet and refusing to do any more. Surely Unions should be campaigning to reduce members tax burdens so wages go further, not adviocating down tools.


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