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Issue:- 24 November 2011


ON 30 November 2011, many of the UK’s public sector workers went out on strike. Like many of the Trade Unions involved in the Industrial action, the UK’s largest public sector union, UNISON, is calling on the Chancellor to stop the unjust attack on public sector workers and their families. The union said that plans to impose a £3.6 billion tax on public sector workers’ pensions, and to hold down pay for another 2 years, would not only bring misery to millions of families; it will put the brakes on economic growth. The union also criticised plans to bring forward the raise in retirement age as unworkable and unfair.  Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:- "Our recovery is as nonexistent as the Chancellor’s apparent understanding of economics. Growth has stalled, and experts are predicting the double dip will hit. What will it take for the government to realise Plan A is failing? We desperately need to get Britain spending. A bad situation will only be made worse by imposing a £3.6billion tax on public sector pensions, by holding down public sector pay, and by throwing hundreds of thousands of public service workers onto the dole. It’s time to drop the public sector pensions tax, and take steps to put money back into people’s pockets. This will boost growth and get Britain hiring, as it is, the private sector is in no position to dig the country out of trouble. Not only is austerity hitting growth, the way it is being applied means unfairness is growing. The government’s cuts and austerity agenda is hitting women, the young, and making those who are less able to pay plug the deficit. Meanwhile it is still billions in bonuses for bankers. This is only storing up trouble for the future."

Many of the older Generation are warning of a return to the "Winter of Discontent", referring to the winter of 1978–79 when industrial unrest that helped Margaret Thatcher become Prime Minister. Many of UNISON's 1.1 million members in public sector schemes, working in the NHS, in local government, further education, higher education, school support, police staff, PCSO's, in water, energy and transport, and in the community and voluntary sector, alongside members from 30 other trade unions, were engaged in what was the biggest industrial action in a generation over what they say are "damaging changes to pensions". Others in the private sector looked on it as a dangerous and reckless act. Most say that it is bad news; they might feel sorry for them, but point out that the private sector has been hit far harder and deeper. It seems that for the most part, that most the population understands the frustrations of the public sector workers, but the bigger proportion of the UK's population are more concerned with the effects of the strikes on the UK economy. If action continues like this into 2012, the repercussions for the UK could be devastating!  Most people know of areas of the public sector that feel hard pressed, by both the previous Labour government and the new coalition, such as the Coastguard and others in very low pay areas of the public sector. For those, most have support to give, but some feel that workers in other areas, on strike are just now being greedy and in words of one spectator of a demo:- "Damn right silly for teachers to strike as it undermines those who are overlooked. They have a good deal, better than what most in the Private Sector have. It loses the validity of the likes of the Coastguard, who unlike the teachers have not had any real pay increases!"

Many businesses say that with the Olympics and Christmas on the horizon, this is not the time to strike. "With a global crisis, Labour has seen a way in, by trying to manipulate the events to make people forget what they did to get themselves voted out, and to get back into our good books. They are manipulating the Trade Unions to bring embarrassment and rage in a new class war. They just want to get back in by saying any spin they can. Spending without any plan to repay is what the banks did and look at happened. Most business leaders would agree that the banks should pay back and help more, but it was under Labour this mess happened. I was a Labour supporter, but not now. If our government does what Labour and the Unions want, the nation will go like the banks. Just look at Ireland, Greece and Spain! Then what will happen? The Unions need to think hard as many private sector workers are feeling the pinch of the global financial meltdown. We are all in it as one. Strikes are good if cash is in the air, but we have none. If we put up wages, many businesses would fail. The unemployment would grow further still. We already find it hard to compete against the likes of India and China, without pushing costs further out into the stratosphere! The cash is just not in the economy. Putting up wages is like taking out extra credit cards to pay off credit cards! It works for a short time, but then increases problems, as interest kicks in and that will be a very hard and fast kick. This is the same with the economy and Unions just don't understand this, or they do and just don't want to think long term!" said one businessman. 

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