British union officials threaten walkouts vs. war

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Wed Feb 12 04:33:12 MST 2003,12189,892773,00.html

Guardian   February 10, 2003

War could cause mass walkouts

Trade union leaders today warned that there could be "massive" strikes if
and when an attack on Iraq was launched.

Speaking at a Stop the War coalition meeting, the leaders of five of
Britain's biggest unions warned the prime minister that the day the bombing
began could see mass walkouts in workplaces across the country.

The union bosses stopped short of encouraging industrial action, but
demanded a recall of the TUC.

Aslef's Mick Rix said some railway workers were already refusing to move
materials that could be used in a conflict.

And Paul Mackney, of lecturers' union Natfhe, warned of widespread
industrial action if the prime minister went to war against the country's

"It is not appropriate for us today to issue a specific call to industrial
action," Mr Mackney said.

But the day war started could see "massive protests in every industry
against it", he warned.

The anti-war movement was compared by the RMT's Bob Crow to the Romanian
revolution - which ended with the execution of dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.

Mr Blair was not listening to the public, the leftwing transport union
leader said. "Look at what happened in Eastern Europe when people didn't
listen," Mr Crow added.

Billy Hayes, the leader of the Communication Workers' Union, and Mark
Serwotka, of the PCS civil servants' union, also attended the press

The TUC constitution provides for a recall in the face of conflict and it
should be enacted to help prevent military action against Iraq, the leaders
said. All insisted they represented a majority in Britain opposed to war.

Mr Hayes said anti-war sentiment was comparable with that at the time of the
Suez crisis, which cost Anthony Eden his premiership.

And Mr Mackney warned: "Unless Blair changes course, Blair will fall on

The five urged their 750,000-strong membership and as many members of the
public as possible to turn out in support of the anti-war demonstrations
planned for the coming weekend.

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