Dispatches – ‘Whats the Point of the Unions?’

As Britain braces itself for the severest cuts in public spending in more than 60 years, Dispatches examines the response of the trade unions and what their threats of potential mass industrial action mean for the country. Representing the interests of millions of British workers, trade unions are perceived to wield a great deal of political might – in this programme Dispatches reporter Deborah Davies investigates just how much power the unions really have to protect pay and jobs, and what the impact of industrial action might be for the public at large. By looking at the inner workings of three of Britain’s most important unions, Dispatches asks do they, and their leaders, really represent their members and what tactics do they have at their disposal to fight the impending cuts? Trade Union Congress leader Brendan Barber has warned Britain will become a ‘darker, brutish and more frightening place’ as the government’s austerity measures take effect. With the potential to cripple transport systems, close schools and government buildings and hit vital public services, Dispatches asks if the unions could combine to bring about the kind of mass protests staged in Greece and Portugal this summer or if their rhetoric is all bluster?