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Public Sector Strikes: What Damage Will They Do?

Posted on the 25 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Public sector strikes: What damage will they do?

Protestors in Exeter, earlier this year. Photocredit: N Hall

Public sector strikes set to take place next week, on November 30th, could bring the country to a halt, with schools across the country closed down. Heathrow passengers may see 12 hour delays as immigration officers strike over pensions. Up to 3 million workers are expected to strike, in the largest action ever seen in the United Kingdom. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Minister in charge of negotiations with the unions, expects the strikes to cost the economy £500 million (1/10th of the royal wedding.) Commentators on left and right seem to be united in their condemnation of the strikes. It’s about time, they say, that the public sector woke up to reality.

They must be mad. None more so than The Sun, which has come down strongly on the public sector pensions strike, calling it “selfish, reckless and increasingly resented.” Public employees already get a much better pension deal than others; their salaries are also £4,000 higher than the private sector. We’re battling “an appalling financial crisis,” and the unions must be mad if they think the country supports them. “The country is sick of their greed.” This strike will cause untold damange to the economy. It’s also about time we stopped paying strike organisers’ wages.

Stop union subsidies. The latter point was certainly one with which Matthew Ellliott, the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, agreed in The Daily Express. The strikes will cause disruption for families, let down by the very services they pay for. Not only that – we’re lining the pockets of the unions organising the strikes – to the tune of over £100 million. All of this is claimed to help workers “engage better with management.” But actually it’s used for anything from “slick adverts to blogs complaining about spending cuts.” This subsidy should be cut entirely. Unions should pay for their own staff – they’re hardly strapped for cash, just look at the bloated salaries of their chief executives. We can’t go on spending with such a “massive deficit” – and cuts mean that those who enjoy generous public sector perks will have to take the blow. Taxpayers want their money given to “frontline services”, not for “fighting political causes.”

Governmental weakness. Ministers are only now realising that during the strikes we’ll need the eldery and sick looked after, said The Daily Mail, as well as our borders guarded. The unions are the real problem – they can’t accept that with “an aging population and the dire state of the national finances” that pension reform is “unavoidable.” Ministers “have played a very bad hand”, revealing weakness. We must pass laws to insist on a “minimum turnout” for the strike ballot to be valid. At the moment, fewer than a third of union members are in control – and this is indeed “a sorry state of affairs.”

Get real. Even The Independent agreed, saying that it certainly wasn’t the time to strike. The proposed reforms aren’t a “back-of-a-napkin policy whim” – they’re based on John Hutton (a former Labour minister)’s analysis. It’s “inescapable” that pensions as they stand are “unsustainable.” State employees are “out of touch.” Even with reforms, public pensions will be more generous than the private sector. It’s “impossible” to justify this strike – the biggest since 1979. Industrial action must be avoided at all costs. It’s not “about an ideological battle”, but about “what the taxpayer can afford.” We need “realism” from the public sector. “It is time that we were all in it together.”

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