Cameron rejects union strike threats
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime minister David Cameron vowed on Monday not to change course in the face of threats of mass strikes over public sector pay, as calls for industrial action over the government's austerity programme dominated talks at a meeting of union leaders in Brighton.
Cameron, whose coalition government froze public sector pay for three years and reformed pensions as part of its stringent deficit-cutting plan, said the government would not negotiate.
"We have put in place some changes to pensions. We do not intend to reopen those talks. And we have put in place a freeze of public sector pay for two years. Again, we do not intend to reopen that decision," Cameron's spokesman said.
"Threats of strike action and strike action would benefit nobody," he said.
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers went on strike across Britain in November 2011, although the government disputed the turnout and played down the strike's impact.
Union leaders, speaking at the annual four-day Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference this week, called for even larger strikes after country-wide demonstrations planned for October 20.
"We need 20 October to be the biggest demonstration we have ever seen...(and) we need to follow up the demonstration as quickly as we can with mass coordinated strike action across the public and private sector," said Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Britain's largest union Unite, said workers from both the public and the private sector were disillusioned with the government's austerity drive.
"More and more people are agreeing with our view that there is an alternative to this path to poverty," McCluskey said in a BBC radio interview.
"The frightening thing for us is that 80 percent of the government's cuts are still to be implemented and once that starts to happen, I'm afraid people's backs are against the wall and that anger will manifest itself in a whole host of different ways, including strike action," he said.
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Steve Addison)
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