Unions urge Miliband: Stand with us
Trade union leaders have warned Ed Miliband they expect Labour to "stand with them" in their fight against a public sector pay freeze.
Addressing the Labour conference, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said working people were being forced to pay the price for the financial crisis and insisted they need their leaders standing beside them, "not sitting on the sidelines".
"If our members, the people we rely on to provide our public services, if they decide to fight this pay freeze, as they will, then both they and their union expect our political party to stand with them and support them," he said.
His comments come after Unite general secretary Len McCluskey told delegates a public sector spending squeeze was "simply not acceptable".
Mr McCluskey said it was time for the Labour party to "turn its back on the neoliberalism of the past", and urged Mr Miliband to "reject the siren voices" from those who philosophy has been discredited.
"Asking the poorest for further sacrifices for a crisis they did not cause is the road to political ruin and defeat at the next election," he said. "A public spending squeeze while the City continues to let rip is simply not acceptable."
Speaking at a fringe meeting later, Mr McCluskey said New Labour had treated the unions as "nutty relatives", and bought into the right-wing media's portrayal of union leaders as "evil".
"That's something that seeped into the psyche of the Labour Party. That's why for many years we were kept at arm's length - the nutty relative kept up in the attic who could slide cheques under the door every now and then but kept away," he he told activists.
It comes amid heightening tensions between the Labour leadership and the unions, after the head of the GMB Paul Kenny said Ed Balls would “give an aspirin a headache”, while Mr Miliband yesterday said the party had to represent more than “one sectional interest” of society.
Mr Balls explained this morning that it was his commitment to the pay freeze that was causing union bosses to be angry at him.
"It is a consequence of my absolute clarity of saying, yes we’ll act on jobs and growth but we can’t make promises now and right now jobs have to come first before pay rises," he said.