Debate: Are unions right to threaten strike action? Or should they accept changes to public sector pensions?

UK: The government faced the threat of the biggest outbreak of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike today after unions representing millions of public sector workers served notice of ballots over pensions.

Unions made a series of announcements about strike ballots, raising the threat of a series of walkouts from late November.

Unison, Unite and the Fire Brigades Union all gave notice of ballots in the worsening row over pensions and launched angry attacks against the government.

Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said 9,000 separate employers’ groups will be involved in the action, describing the ballot as “unprecedented” in scale.

He told the TUC Congress in London that unions were involved in the “fight of our lives” and was given a standing ovation by the 300 delegates after his ballot announcement.

The FBU announced the first step towards balloting the union’s 43,000 members, raising the threat of industrial action with no Green Goddess military cover.

Firefighters last took national strike action in 2003, when Green Goddesses were used as emergency cover, but the ageing military vehicles have since been taken out of service.

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The prime minister’s spokesman said: “The best way forward is to continue with talks. We should have a constructive dialogue with the unions.

“It is disappointing that there are calls for industrial action when talks are ongoing. Public sector pensions are among the best available.”

- What do you think? Are the unions right to threaten legal action? Or are their demands unrealistic? Post your comments below.