The Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference kicked off with demands that embattled Prime Minister Liz Truss step down.
That coincided with news that coffin makers are the latest UK workers set to strike as their pay fails to keep up with decades-high inflation.
In Brighton, on England‘s south coast, the National Education Union’s joint leader was categorical.
“It’s inevitable that Liz Truss will go,” Kevin Courtney told AFP, as the prime minister battled to stabilise her position after an economic crash forced her into humiliating U-turns on tax cuts
“The total loss of credibility she’s had means that there’s no way the Conservative party will have her as their leader when they go into the next general election,” he predicted.
“They should call an election now.”
In a packed Brighton conference hall, outgoing TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady also demanded that the prime minister step down.
“I have a message for Liz Truss: Working people are proud of the jobs we do. We work hard. We work the longest hours in Europe,” she told delegates, who responded with loud applause.
“Yet thanks to your party’s 12 years in government, millions are struggling to make ends meet.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour party, is due to address the TUC on Thursday, when the conference wraps up.
While unions are traditionally allied to the Labour party, Starmer is expected to face a frosty reception after refusing to support the latest strike action and banning MPs in his senior team from joining picket lines.
It comes as tens of thousands of teachers and state-employed health workers are being balloted on possible walkouts.
Should they strike, they will join tens of thousands of railway and postal staff carrying out some of Britain’s biggest stoppages in decades.
“If I was the government, I would be very worried about it,” Courtney said.
He dismissed suggestions that teacher strikes would harm children already having to catch-up on learning because of earlier Covid lockdowns.
“We really do not want to go on strike but we’ll be harming children by not going on strike.
“Having held down pay for so long, we have real problems with recruiting young people to come into teaching and we’re losing loads of people out of teaching,” the union leader insisted.
The TUC conference had been due to take place last month but was delayed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. That also triggered the postponement of strikes as a mark of respect.
Across the Channel, France faced disruptions on Tuesday after unions there called a nationwide transport strike.
At the entrance of the Brighton conference centre looking out toward France, chanting conference attendees made their feelings known, urging the TUC umbrella group to also call a general strike.
Large banners adorned with the TUC conference message declared: “We Demand Better”.
It comes as the government presses ahead with legal moves to introduce minimum service levels during strikes by transport workers.
Truss promised in an interview with the BBC on Monday to keep the trains running in the face of strikes by what she called “militant” unions.
Companies are not caving in to union demands either.
British postal operator Royal Mail last week unveiled plans to axe up to 10,000 jobs, blaming the move partly on ongoing staff strikes that contributed to a first-half loss.
Deals are being reached in some cases following long negotiations — the latest being with thousands of bus staff, who are said to have secured a pay deal in line with inflation.
Senior criminal lawyers in England and Wales recently called off further strike action after voting to accept a government pay offer.
Britain has experienced strike action this year also by port, refuse and telecom workers.
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