By John Moylan
Employment correspondent, BBC News
The unions are threatening mass strike action
Trade unions have drawn up plans for a widespread campaign of industrial action over government plans for public sector pensions, a union leader says.
Until now it was thought there would be a single day of action in November, but the senior union leader told the BBC the action would be more sustained.
Industrial action, potentially involving millions of workers, could start by late November.
Unions plan to follow up the strikes with co-ordinated action across the UK.
“The idea that we will have a one-day dispute, marching around town with a few flags… ain’t going to do it,” said the union leader.
When asked specifically whether there would be a number of one-day national strikes, he replied “yep”.
“In some areas there will be two or three days,” said the union leader.
“In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.”
He added: “There are lists that are being drawn up of targeted areas.”
I think you are going to see the biggest financial-gathering exercise by the trade unions so that you can keep people out”
End Quote Union boss
The three biggest public sector unions – Unison, Unite and the GMB – are thought to be close to announcing a strike ballot over planned pension reforms.
Between them they would have to ballot around 1.5 million members, ranging from the health sector to local government.
The involvement of the “big three” unions would significantly escalate the dispute and could bring millions of workers out on strike.
More details could emerge at the TUC conference on Wednesday when the key debate on public sector pensions will take place.
The government is seeking increases in pension contributions from next April, while millions of workers continue to face a pay freeze.
The senior union leader confirmed that preparation for the confrontation had been under way for months.
To prevent lower paid union workers suffering hardship through lost earnings, the unions are planning a major fund-raising drive.
“I think you are going to see the biggest financial-gathering exercise by the trade unions so that you can keep people out,” he said.
But one economic think tank said any move towards sustained industrial action could not be justified.
Mark Littlewood from the right-leaning Institute for Economic Affairs, said public sector workers were not “the oppressed poor” and also enjoyed “unbelievable job security, more generous annual holidays”.
“Your average worker in the public sector earns 4k more a year in their salary, if you start building in their pensions about £7,000 a year more.
“Overall, average to average, [they are] 35%, maybe 40% richer than the average private sector worker,” Mr Littlewood said.