Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to stand with workers who undertake illegal strike action over pay.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, the Labour leader was repeatedly pressed on whether he backed the view of his long-term supporter Unite chief Len McCluskey that workers should flout the law in order to protest against low wages.
A change in the law by the Government means strikes can now only take place if a vote has more than 50 per cent turn out.
Earlier this month, McCluskey argued that workers had a “duty to resist” the law change – citing Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi as inspirations.
On the BBC ahead of Labour’s conference in Brighton, Andrew Marr asked Corbyn: “If Len McCluskey is on the picket line on a strike the Government has declared to be illegal, are you with him or are you against him. It’s a very straight forward question.
“I will be with those workers demanding a decent pay rise,” Corbyn replied.
When asked if that meant standing on the picket line with those workers, Corbyn repeated: “I will be with those workers demanding a decent pay rise.”
The Government has indicated it will scrap the public sector pay cap which limits rises to 1 per cent, with the Cabinet agreeing earlier this month that “more flexibility” would be shown to help retain and recruit staff and maintain “world class public services”.
In a sign that the cap is melting away, police officers are to receive a 2% pay increase, while prison staff will get a 1.7% increase.
Yet with inflation running at just under 3%, many workers are unhappy that the rises represent a real term cut in pay.
Public and Commercial Services union chief Mark Serwotka described the offer as “a pile of crap and not good enough”, while TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This below-inflation pay offer is pathetic. Public sector workers have suffered seven long years of real pay cuts, and are thousands of pounds worse off. Today’s announcement means bills will continue to rise faster than their wages.
“If Ministers think a derisory rise like this will deal with the staffing crisis in our public services, they are sorely mistaken.”
On ITV’s Peston on Sunday show, McCluskey was asked if he stood by his threat of illegal strikes.
“Yes,” he replied, adding: “No one wants to step outside the law, least of all me.”
McCluskey said he did not expect the Labour leadership or any Labour MP to publicly ”support a call to be outside of the law”.
He added: “I am not looking for that support.”
On the same show, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was asked whether he believed unions could reach the 50% threshold for strikes.
He replied: “You’ve got a lack of confidence in the working class. I haven’t.”