As union members gather in central London for the 143rd annual Trades Union Congress on 12-14 September, there is much talk of strikes and resistance. The threat of industrial action remains the single biggest obstacle to the coalition’s cuts. Despite a steep decline in membership over the past 30 years, unions continue to enjoy unrivalled legitimacy.
In the following pages, we examine whether the trade unions are up to the challenge of taking on the government, and hear from the general-secretaries of seven of the biggest unions.
Can the leaders of Britain’s 7m-strong union movement build a grass-roots coalition, a broad church, that reaches out beyond trade union and Labour Party members to charities, community groups and public-service users? If so, the coalition may be forced to execute the biggest U-turn of them all.