Unison Conference In Bournemouth

A leading union will turn up the heat on the Government's public sector pay policy today by smashing up a giant block of ice in the shape of a pound sign amid warnings of fresh strikes.

Unison will open its national conference in Bournemouth with a fresh attack against wage freezes and caps for council, health and other public sector workers.

General secretary Dave Prentis will take a hammer to a metre-high block of ice during the opening session.

The pay of local government workers has been frozen for three years, while public sector employees face having wage rises capped at 1% a year for the next two years.

Delegates will argue this week that workers are seeing ''substantial'' cuts in their disposable income, with no guarantee that all public sector employees will even receive the ''miserly'' 1% award.

Pay will be a major theme of Mr Prentis's keynote speech to the conference today.

He will say:

''The pay freeze has been devastating for public sector workers and their families. It cannot go on and we will not let it go on. Our demand is for decent pay.

''We will smash the pay freeze. If we cannot win fair pay through negotiation, we will fight it through strike action if necessary.''

Unison has been heavily involved in the long-running dispute over the Government's controversial pension reforms, which have sparked a series of national strikes.