Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon repeatedly refused to rule out supporting illegal strike action.
Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, this morning told the BBC the union could be willing to break the law to take strike action in protest at the public sector pay cap.
Under the terms of the Trade Union Act, for industrial action to be legal, unions must secure at least 50% turnout in any strike ballot.
But McCluskey said this was an “artificial threshold” and that “if the government have pushed us outside the law then they will have to stand the consequences”.
He added: “In terms of the concept of co-ordinated public service workers action, yes, I think that’s very likely and very much on the cards.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme moments after McCluskey , Burgon dodged six questions about whether he backed the idea of illegal strikes.
“I think the real issue here is the only lawbreakers there have been where it comes to worker-employer relations are actually the government,” he said.
Burgon said the questions were “complete hypotheticals” as “there isn’t any illegal strike action taking place”.
Presenter John Humphrys, who grew frustrated with the shadow cabinet minister, rejected the claim.
“If they were hypothetical Len McCluskey would have said so himself,” he told Burgon. ”I’m inviting you to either support or condemn the threat that has been made by Len McCluskey. You seem unwilling to do that either way.”
In his BBC interview, McCluskey confirmed he was talking about Labour MPs when he said some people were “traitors” who had “knifed” Jeremy Corbyn in the back.
And he floated the idea of the Labour Party having a second deputy leader who would be a woman.
The move is likely to be viewed as a thinly veiled attack on the party’s current deputy chief Tom Watson, who has clashed with the Unite leader in the past.