On Wednesday, November 30, more than two million public sector workers are planning to go out on strike.
Teachers, civil servants, NHS and council workers will be involved in the largest single day of industrial action since the Winter of Discontent in 1979.
The strike, co-ordinated by the TUC, will disrupt hospitals, schools, courts, government offices, job centres, driving tests, public transport and council services.
Unions argue that the Government’s reforms to pensions will lead to their members paying in more, working longer and receiving less when they retire.
I don’t doubt for a minute that they are right.
However, even taking the proposed changes into consideration, they will still end up enjoying a far more comfortable retirement than most workers in the private sector.
In my view, next week’s industrial action is entirely unjustified and, what’s worse, it runs the risk of further damaging our already fragile economy.
I think the truth is that at this time of great anxiety there is no real appetite for this strike anyway.
This has been evidenced by the relatively small numbers of union members who bothered to vote – around a quarter to a third of those actually polled.
Nevertheless, as is the way with unions, all members will be expected to toe the line and miss out on a day’s pay to show solidarity with some bloke from IT who they can’t actually stand because he’s is off sick more than he’s actually in work.
After all, it’s about us working classes standing together against those greedy fat cat bosses/bankers/millionaires in the Government (insert as applicable), isn’t it?
Rubbish. If those on strike expect me to toot my car horn in support of them they are in for a long wait.
Although I suspect I’ll do well to find many actual pickets or marchers because strikes aren’t like they used to be.
Gone are the days of people warming their hands over coal braziers and relying on food parcels.
I reckon The Sentinel’s photographers will have to be out pretty early to catch a handful of pickets on November 30 before they disappear off to watch Jeremy Kyle or to enjoy a bonus Zumba lesson.
The fact is that the industrial action which will disrupt the lives of so many will accomplish nothing as the same concessions which are currently on the table – worth an estimated £50 billion – will remain.
They won’t alter because there’s no more money to be had.
Yes, it is grossly unfair that people are having the terms of their employment fiddled about with.
However, this has been happening in the private sector for a lot longer which is why there will be precious little sympathy from those who don’t have the luxury of working in a heavily-unionised environment.
Ministers insist that changes need to be made to public sector pensions to ensure they are sustainable for the future.
The fact is, we are all living longer and drawing our pensions for longer – including all of those public sector workers who, until recently, were retiring in their early to mid-fifties on whacking great pensions.
We can blame the banks, the city boys, hedge fund traders, ordinary people who run up enormous credit card bills or various governments – whoever we want really – for the current global economic crisis. The fact is, we are where we are and it looks like its going to get a damn sight worse before it gets better.
What was instructive to me is that even the Labour leader had no stomach for industrial action earlier this year because even he recognises we are in uncharted territory.
Look around. The Euro is on its knees and no two economists can agree on how to save it or resuscitate the UK economy.
Thus, in my opinion, now certainly isn’t the time for large-scale industrial action. Surely it has to do more harm than good.
Other than public sector workers inconveniencing the public and annoying their non-union colleagues, I just can’t see the point of the strike on November 30.
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel