Sunday Mirror article on the economy, strikes and public sector pensions

George Osborne says he can’t remember the miners’ strike of the 1980s. I can. Growing up near the South Notts coalfield, I remember the road blocks, anger and violence on TV.

So when the Tory-led government starts seeking confrontation over pension reform or strike laws, I worry – because I don’t think they understand the risks they’re running and the dangerous game they are playing.

From David Cameron down, Ministers are saying to the trade unions: ‘Bring it on’. Like in the 1980s, they seem to be spoiling for a fight, goading the unions and trying to provoke strikes.

They’ve done it again this weekend – announcing big changes to pensions for nurses, teachers, dinner ladies and other low paid workers before talks with their unions had even finished.

Everyone agrees public sector pensions need to be reviewed as people live longer. For younger workers, pension rules have to change.

But the government should be getting round the table and talking changes through. And they should not be pulling the rug from under people who have dedicated themselves to teaching, nursing or policing for the past twenty years.

Last year the number of working days lost because of strikes hit a record low because in this day and age – and thanks to 13 years of Labour insisting on it – both employers and unions want co-operation not confrontation. The Tories want to wreck that approach.

Let’s be clear what George Osborne’s game is. Everyone knows that after the world recession, we need to get growth back and get the deficit down. But by going too far and too fast, this Tory-led government is making things worse not better.

George Osborne knows the economy has flat-lined over the last six months. He knows he’s losing the economic argument on the deficit and jobs and needs to change course.

But instead he’s trying to pick a fight about pensions, provoke strikes and persuade the public to blame the stalling economy on the unions.

That’s why trade union leaders must avoid George Osborne’s trap. He wants them to think that going on strike is the only option and the best way to win the argument.

No one wants a return to the division and confrontation and strikes of the 1980s. Nor do people want a return to the 1980s of decaying school buildings, endless NHS waiting lists and mass youth unemployment – to a time when young people’s only option was the dole.

But if George Osborne is to avoid that, then he needs to adopt Labour’s balanced deficit plan that puts jobs first. He should repeat the tax on bank bonuses to get 100,000 young people back to work.

And if he won’t do that, then he should at least make a step in the right direction – with a temporary cut in VAT to put money back in people’s pockets, ease the pressure on mortgage rates, and give the economy the jump-start it desperately needs.

George Osborne and David Cameron should stop provoking strikes – and start taking responsibility for what’s happening in the economy. Before it’s too late.

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Posted June 18th, 2011 by Ed

One Response to “Sunday Mirror article on the economy, strikes and public sector pensions”

  1. Soooooo… what is your stance on public sector pension reform? Are you backing the proposals of the coalition, proposals that happen to have been designed by one of your ex-cabinet colleagues?

    A temporary rise on VAT is not going to fill the pensions blackhole that I (as someone 40+ years away from retirement) am going to be taxed through the backteeth for – so please stop dodging the detail and either support what’s on the table or tell us what you would actually do differently.

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