Latest at end of file: Jan 17th 2012
JUNE 18 2011
The first thing
to be said is that threats of any sort are usually an indication of a
loss of self control. A warning is rational, as when a judge warns a
witness, plaintiff or even barrister that if they continue with a
particular course of behaviour they may be held in contempt of court
and dealt with appropriately. So the headline on the BBC web site http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13819277
is carefully worded:
One of Britain's biggest
trade unions says pension reform plans could trigger the biggest wave
of industrial action since the General Strike in the 1920s.
But are we are
supposed to conclude that Prentis is warning that the members of his
union will not accept the concept of coalition government and the rule
of law if the pension reform plans they enact are not to their liking.
The reasoning could be based in theory on 4 pillars of thought:
1. Tradition. We
have trade unions, they have traditionally called strikes to safeguard
and improve pay and conditions.
Responsibility. Activist Trade Union members hold the view that the
government is, in this instance, not acting equitably in the national
interest and must tell their members this is the case
Leaders of Trade Unions are by definition elected to lead. The
activists may well convince many voting members they have a case. Given
the number who will not vote at all this could make leading in another
direction a non-starter.
4. The likely
outcome should not come as a surprise, so a warning is appropriate.
In practice, the
warning seems to be, as described by the BBC's correspondent, a war of
words to impress supporters. Hopefully behind the scenes the real
position can be negotiated with all the cards face up on the table.
That is a very different ball-game, in which all people are winners, as
the opponents are wasted energy, employment and time.
The head of a Teacher's union says she lacks information, therefore
cannot negotiate, and will therefore call for a strike.
On the whole, I think all this public posturing is unnecessary. We have
as a society caused ourselves immense problems by expecting longer more
prosperous lives in a world of many billions. We cannot justify by just
wishing it so. It is quite likely that if all the cards were put on the
table and all the information available, the reforms would be a great
deal tougher. Blaming bankers cannot change anything.
We seem to be a long way from these days: http://www.film4.com/reviews/1987/comrades
4 unions out of 24 are calling strikes tomorrow. The worrying thing
about these strikes is not the strikes themselves but what they reveal
- that these people must be so miserable and alienated in their lives;
that they feel so little in common with their fellow citizens that
dialogue is over, reason is not useful, they being abused. Is the world
of which they feel they are not a part of real? Or do these people
believe what they read in the newspapers, having no actual contact with
other parts of the body of society?
Or does the fault lie elsewhere? Is our education system itself
incapable of taking homo urbanus out of their artificial boxes and
showing them the world which supplies their needs? Do we demand too
much of our teachers? The answer to the last is yes, there is no
argument, but where does the blame lie and are the hands of government
tied by political correctness? Is there a middle class that has
expectations that are simply ridiculous, while half of them are now in
debt having been used as the motor of growth in a flawed global vision?
NOVEMBER 10th 2011
In spite of a significantly improved offer from the government, unions
are still voting to strike.
taking industrial action
to protect their pensions in the biggest ballot they have ever held.
police and justice,
community, higher education and water, environment and transport -
unanimously agreed to go ahead with strike action on 30 November,
co-ordinated with other TUC unions. That has been authorised by the
union's industrial action committee.
That is the proud news from UNISON. But the Guardian reports:
30 November as government and union
bosses row over 29% ballot turnout
by anyone in this strike.
Certainly nothing by most UNISON members...
NOVEMBER 28th 2011
Still no agreement in site, chaos forecast at airports as border
controls will fail.
NOVEMBER 30th 2011
There was no chaos at the airports due to a reduction in traffic, a
less than total strike and the employment of replacement staff.
workers, including teachers and health staff,
over pension changes have caused widespread disruption across England.
the action had a "severe impact", with 76%
of state-funded schools affected.
was a pointless exercise, carried out to satisfy the credibility and
prestige of the union leaders and the theories of certain economic
On the basic point: can we borrow our way
out of a debt crisis? the answer is that this question cannot be
treated as an abstract principle. It is possible for a country in
certain circumstances to do just that; but those circumstances do
absolutely not exist at this time for the UK. Judicious and appropriate
quantitative and qualitative easing can mitigate liquidity problems.
That has been and is being done. But there are limits on borrowing
which have already been passed, and only retrenchment in future
commitments can make the necessary borrowing affordable. To keep the
interest rate affordable we cannot avoid a
reduction in future pension commitments from the hopelessly ambitious
levels that were in existence. There was no hope of them being afforded
on any basis, regardles of growth. We have first to restructure our
economy. We had a world-class banking business but blew it. We have to
rebuild it, rebuild a manufacturing base and repair and rebuild the
parts infrastructure that have been neglected - a neglect that set in
in the 1970s.
DECEMBER 20th 2011
Since a day or two now it has been clear that since the strike at the
end of November intelligent negotiations have been resumed. Apart from
the Civil Service, they have made some progress based on very
intelligent adjustments which retain the government's need for savings
but address some concerns of the unions. That being the case, why was
the strike called when negotiations were still in progress? The excuse
being made on the union side is that the government had said there
would be no more concessions made through 'central' negotiations,
whatever that means. I prefer to think the reason for the strike was a
show of feeling, based on the 4 points I listed at the start of this
There is still a way to go if strikes are to be avoided, but
negotiation in good faith is proceeding on a number of fronts.
JANUARY 17th 2012
David Miliband has stated unequivocally that to save jobs, pay rises
must be curbed. Some union leaders have vociferously disagreed. They
have not offered any logic to support their views so one must assume
they feel our manufacturing and service industries are bye and large
competitive and we can keep everyone employed. The evidence says
otherwise. Indications are that we have to take a bit of care at a time
when Europe as a whole is not too flush. We are a trading nation. But
since the same union leaders have been known to think that striking is
a way to ensure employment we can't expect rationality to play a big
part in their thinking.