Wednesday, November 30, 2011


So, the strike...

On the one hand:

- I'm really not a fan of the various union leaders. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make sure I don't like them. And I can't help but think that a large part of their motivation is political; if the Labour party were in office doing exactly the same things, I daresay they wouldn't be as active.

- It is true that much of our public services just aren't fit for purpose (with the House of Commons being the most obvious example). It is true that there is a very strong case for some cuts. It is true that we're just not getting good value for money in a lot of areas. It is true that there are entire functions that various organisations are providing that they really shouldn't be. It is true that the bureaucracy has gotten badly out of hand, and is now serving the bureaucracy more than it should (and, sometimes, more than it does us). And it is likely true that there are entire layers of middle management that could simply be eliminated that would not only not reduce services, but which would actually improve them.

- If we were setting up public sector pay and pension arrangements from a blank slate, it is almost certainly the case that we wouldn't offer anything like the current arrangement, and even the revised arrangement on offer is probably more generous than what would be tabled.


We're not setting up public sector pay and pension arrangements from a blank slate. A particular set of pay and conditions were agreed, including the current pension arrangements. And simply trying to change those unilaterally is wrong.

(And, actually, it's exactly the same argument as I made with the banker bonuses at the start of the year - the contracts say that particular payments should be made; those payments should be made. Despite most of the banks being in public ownership, the government haven't insisted on a mass renegotiation of banker pay, and they haven't even insisted that the banks only pay out the minimum contractually-required bonuses. That they are instead going after public sector workers is a rather shocking double standard.)

The government tabled an initial ridiculous offer. They had it rejected, and came back with another "generous" offer that was still unacceptable. They seem strongly disinclined to further negotiations. That being the case, striking is certainly justified.

(At the moment, the government are asking public sector workers to accept a multi-year pay freeze followed by a two-year 1% increase while inflation is around 5% (effectively, a big pay cut), and to pay more into their pension, and to work longer, and to get a smaller pension at the end. And in return they'll... well, nothing really. Some negotiation. Any one of these, or maybe the combination of "pay freeze" and "work longer", might be acceptable, but all together? Yeah, right.)

As far as I can see, the only thing wrong with the strike is that it's a one-day stoppage. This will probably hurt the workers more than it does the government. Still, this is probably just the opening shot - I can foresee worse to come.

It's going to be an interesting few months.

1 comment:

Kezzie said...

Great post! I hope you don't mind but I've quoted you and linked to this blog post in my own perspective on the strikes!