Thursday, 10 July 2014

Wider Economics

Today I have been on strike. 

I am a member of Unison which is one of the Unions whose members are currently in dispute with the government about the so called “austerity” cuts to public services, and to the pay, conditions and pensions of public sector workers.

Trade Unionism is in my blood and yes, I get emotional about it. I’m not ashamed of that, but I am ashamed to live in a country where the public services that form the bedrock of a civilized society are being degraded in the way this current government seems to have no shame in doing, along with freezing the pay of those who work hard to try to continue to deliver them.

Although I support the aims of the strike from the bottom of my heart, what I feel even more strongly about is the danger to the whole trade union movement that this current dispute has highlighted. The Tories have now announced that they want to cut the unions down completely and effectively leave workers without a negotiating function at all. To achieve this they are aiming to bring in legislation that will remove the right to strike unless it has a mandate which exceeds the one on which many MPs themselves were elected. And this is democracy? It makes me want to weep.

If you have no collective bargaining you have no means of negotiating, you are reduced to begging. This is what a government that aims to cripple the unions should remember. Do they really want to promote the imbalance in power that this would cause. The IMF has something to say on this which the current government would do well to heed.

As for me, today’s action left me feeling uplifted. There are a lot of people out there who feel frustration at the way public services are being cynically attacked under the guise of dealing with the “deficit”. I don’t know if we can change anything, but at least we are trying, and we are being heard. Collective withdrawal of labour is the last resort and it isn’t done lightly, but feelings are strong because those of us who work in the public sector see first hand the damage that the cuts to services is causing.

Today I was very proud to feel the Power of a Union.


  1. Hi Cerridwen, interesting and very passionate post. I was contemplating not posting but wanted you to know that I'd read your post. We're on different sides of the fence, you on the public sector side, me on the private sector side and 'never the twain shall meet' it appears. One of my friends is a teacher - I have no idea if she went on strike or not. We learnt early on not to discuss politics, thus ensuring our friendship lasted - we just agree to disagree!

  2. Thanks for commenting weenie. The way I see it there is not (or shouldn't be) any public/private divide, just people who have a common interest in making society work for everyone. We don't need to listen to those who have a vested interest in causing division, but we do need to keep on talking to each other (and listening) about the issues - we're all on the same side in the end, although some of the politicians would have us think otherwise. :-)

  3. Yes, we both want the same things but I don't think either of us can have it all - decent wages, pensions, job security. I don't think the 3 co-exist these days as there's not enough money in the proverbial 'pot'.

    In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, our office alone got rid of over 100 staff (nearly 20%) during a very unpleasant 3 month period (I escaped the axe...twice), our salaries were capped, our pension contributions increased from 5% to 9% and our medical benefits reduced. The terms on the table? "Like it or lump it", except in corporate-speak.

    Things only started picking up last year for us but it seems the public sector is still lagging behind and suffering the consequences.

  4. I agree completely. No-one (or not many people - there are notable exceptions :-)) has come out of the crash unscathed.

    What I do find particularly hard in my line of work is seeing first hand the cuts to services, some of which we will never be reversed. For example the closure, or handing over to volunteers, of over 1000 libraries.
    Believe me I know, because I have seen first hand, that this could have been avoided in many cases and it has only saved a piddling amount of money anyway. It was pursued simply to follow a political agenda (Cameron's Big Society - which now seems to have faded away).

    Many thanks for your comments. I don't intend to make a habit of ranting on here but it will break out from time to time as it does help to get it all out in writing sometimes. Therapy. Feel free to ignore though. :-)

  5. I ran the PA for our local branch of the NUT on the 10th and there was a healthy turnout with a lot of support. Both Unison and the FBU round here.

    Seems to have worked in at least one way, in that the odious Mr Gove seems be on his bike ;)

  6. Yes that was definitely very good news and it proves that protest works, and is heard. :-)