So, November 30th. It was, we were told, a national day of action by public sector workers, when the evil/heroic unions (depending on which newspaper you read) would succeed/fail in bringing Britain to a standstill (again, depending on which newspaper you read).
Merseyside, with quite a generous allocation of civil service workers, was poised to be badly hit, with dire warnings in the local press of CHAOS.
Did it come to pass? Well, the Mersey Tunnels were closed.
For me it was a normal day, apart from Liverpool city centre being super-busy as strike-affected schoolchildren and their harrassed-looking parents descended for some retail therapy. As I watched the crowds in the shops, I found it hard to swallow the Government’s line that this strike was damaging to the economy.
The Sun (spit) and Daily Mail (urgh) have delighted in demonising the unions. They portray them as militant, 70s throwbacks, not living in the real world. In a masterpiece of tabloid doublespeak, they tried to portray the strike as massively disruptive to the general public, while at the same time downplaying it as a “damp squib”. The right-wing press conveniently ignored a BBC poll showing 61% of adults supported the strike. Jeremy Clarkson was definitely with the other 39%.
David Cameron meanwhile, seems to be trying to turn the term “leftwing” into an insult, similar to the way “liberal” has become a dirty word in America. The Guardian carried an interesting article on this phenomenon.
As I understand it, the government have decided that the public sector pension plan is going to be unilaterally changed, so workers will pay in more and get less at the end of it. They’re not being greedy, they’re not asking for more – they simply want to keep what they already have. Some private sector workers complained that they don’t get such a generous pension. Well, that may be true, but why should public sector workers sink to the lowest common denominator? Instead, private sector workers should be lobbying their employers for better pension provision (maybe they should form a union).
No-one should be completely immune to the effects of the financial woes we find ourselves in. But why are public sector workers being singled out when the bankers who got us into this mess are still paying themselves massive bonuses? “We’re all in this together,” after all.
My favourite quote came, as so many of my favourite quotes do these days, from Twitter:
It’s an excellent point. Rules about child labour, health and safety at work, anti-discrimination legislation and countless other laws, have all come about thanks in no small part to union intervention. If you want to go back to a country where 12-year-olds were sent down coal mines, then by all means abolish the unions, but that’s not a country I want to live in.