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Unite leader ready to break law to pursue public sector pay strikes

Len McCluskey warned the Government that Unite union was prepared to take stronger action to oppose the wage cap on public workers.

The leader of the Unite union has said he is prepared to break the law in order to launch strike action against the public sector pay cap.

Len McCluskey warned the Government that co-ordinated industrial action on the issue was “very likely”.

The union leader said he was ready to defy a legal requirement that strike action needs to be approved by a ballot with a turnout of more than 50%.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We will always stand shoulder to shoulder with our members.

“If the Government have pushed us outside the law then they will have to stand the consequences.”

Asked if he was prepared to back a strike called on a turnout of less than 50%, Mr McCluskey said: “If they haven’t managed to hit an artificial threshold that this Government have foolishly put onto the statute books, then I will stand by our members and we will all live, including the Government, we will all live with the consequences of that.”

The union leader 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.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, and shadow Lord Chancellor, Richard Burgon repeatedly refused to say whether he would back a strike called without a 50% ballot turnout.

Asked if he would support an illegal strike, Mr Burgon told the BBC the question was “hypothetical”.

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Mr Burgon said that a co-ordinated strike would not be illegal (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said: “There isn’t any illegal strike action taking place.

“In relation to the question of turnouts in strike ballots, what we have always been supportive of is encouraging as many people to vote as possible.

“What a Labour government would do would be to repeal the Trade Union Act which is seeking to stop trade unions from taking action to stop ordinary people… from suffering a 14% pay cut in real terms.”

Mr Burgon added that a co-ordinated strike would not be illegal.

Mr McCluskey, who said some MPs were among “traitors” who had “knifed” Jeremy Corbyn in the back, also 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.

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