British Politicians Tag Olympic Strike Claims as “completely unacceptable and unpatriotic”

By Community | February 29, 2012

British politicians have denounced a union leader’s threat of strikes to disrupt the Olympics as “completely unacceptable and unpatriotic”.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, told The Guardian that unions could stage industrial action as part of their campaign against Government cuts.

He called for the public to engage in civil disobedience to defend public services during the fortnight of sport this summer.

Mr McCluskey said no precise plans had been drawn up for action during the London Games, but added that they “absolutely” could include strikes.

“The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable. Our very way of life is being attacked,” he said.

“I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting. If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at.”

Responding to his comments, Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “The Olympics are a great opportunity for this country to show everything that is great about the United Kingdom and advertise ourselves to the world.

“It is completely unacceptable and unpatriotic what he is proposing. Most people in this country, including members of that union, think the Olympics is a great occasion for the country and wouldn’t want to see anything happen that would disrupt it in any way.”

Mr McCluskey’s comments were also condemned by Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose party is largely funded by union donations.

“Any threat to the Olympics is totally unacceptable and wrong,” said Mr Miliband. “This is a celebration for the whole country and must not be disrupted.”

Mr McCluskey said no precise plans had been drawn up for action during the London Games, but added that they “absolutely” could include strikes.

“The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable. Our very way of life is being attacked,” he said.

“I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting. If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at.”

Mr McCluskey said his union had not yet discussed “the specifics” of how workers could target the Olympics, but said they were looking at what “leverage points” the Games offer – such as bus services.

He added: “Now nobody has made any decisions yet and, of course, it would be nice if we were able not to disrupt such a prestigious event as the Olympics.

“But by the same token, people have to understand that we are fighting for our heritage here.

“Our parents and our grandparents, having defeated fascism in Europe, came back determined to build a land fit for heroes. They gave us the welfare state, the National Health Service, universal education.

“All of that is being attacked. I, for one, am not prepared to stand by and have my children or grandchildren say to me, ’What did you do when this was being taken away from us?’

“When you say what can we do, and the likes of the Olympics, I’m calling upon the general public to engage in civil disobedience.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Mr Miliband to “rein in” the union boss.

“I just think people will be gobsmacked, appalled, that someone thinks that at a time when we are finally hosting one of the greatest events in the world, he is calling for civil disobedience,” Mr Clegg told ITV Daybreak.

“I know he is the sort of paymaster of the Labour party but I hope Ed Miliband will rein him in.”

Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said she too was “shocked” by Mr McCluskey’s comments and called on Mr Miliband to act.

“This is an appalling display of naked self-interest by Labour’s biggest financial backer,” she said.

“The London Olympics will be a great occasion for this country. It is disgraceful for a trade union boss to be calling for mass disruption when the eyes of the world will be on Britain.”

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader spoke to Mr McCluskey this morning to tell him his threat was “absolutely wrong”.

Ms Harman said: “Len McCluskey is absolutely wrong to even float the notion that there should be any trade union disruptions or anything that would disrupt the Olympics.

“The Olympics are going to be a fantastically important thing for London and the whole country. It is inconceivable that trade union members would want to disrupt something that they’ve been very much a part of.

“I have spoken to Len McCluskey this morning and said that both Ed Miliband and I think he is wrong and we think that he shouldn’t even have been floating the prospect.

“We all need to be rallying behind the Olympics. It is going to be an important opportunity for Britain and is going to affect our jobs, our economic growth in the future and the prosperity of this country.”