Thursday, February 25, 2010

Could a 'Spring of Discontent' be to Labour's advantage?

The announcement from the Public and Commercial Services Union that members have voted strongly for strike action (64% for), and even more strongly in support of action short of a strike (81% for) will come as a bit of a blow to the Government. The announcement that notice is to be given of a two day national strike on 8 and 9 March will be even more troubling.

Memories of the late seventies, and of public sector workers on picket lines, will haunt those Labour activists who experienced the dying days of the Callaghan government, but this does potentially present Labour with an opportunity to look tough.

The issue in dispute is that of redundancy compensation, and proposed changes that reduce the level of payouts in the event that redundancies are needed. Whilst this might be of major importance to civil servants, it is likely to meet with little sympathy from those in what one might describe as the 'real world', where redundancy packages are rather less generous.

Given that PCS do not give money to the Labour Party (Civil Service unions don't, for obvious reasons), there isn't any money at stake for Labour, they can stand firm against against an unpopular opponent, and establish a bit of credibility in the fight against public spending.

So, expect a couple of weeks of debate about the impact of spending cuts and pay freezes on driving instructors, coastguards and job centre workers, whilst the union and the Government dance around each other. Me, I'll be looking forward to a couple of days without pay, the loss of two days of pension entitlement and a pile of work to catch up with on 10 March...

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