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 is carefully worded:

Unison's Prentis warns of massive strikes over pensions

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.
2. 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
3. Action. 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:

JUNE 29th 2011
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.
UNISON members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action to protect their pensions in the biggest ballot they have ever held.
Each service group executive - local government, health, 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:

Public sector workers set to walk out on 30 November as government and union bosses row over 29% ballot turnout

The public  asks what is to be gained 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.

But strikes by public sector workers, including teachers and health staff, over pension changes have caused widespread disruption across England.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the action had a "severe impact", with 76% of state-funded schools affected.

It was a pointless exercise, carried out to satisfy the credibility and prestige of the union leaders and the theories of certain economic fundamentalists.
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 file.

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.