Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Striking Picture


Here's fun. The chart shows the number of working days lost to industrial disputes in two sectors of the economy. Let's call them Sector A and Sector B.

Now, if I tell you one is the private sector and the other is the public, can you guess which is which? Think very carefully, and remember that the private sector employs four times as many people as the public sector. And remember too that the private sector is run by Evil Capitalists who, unless they are robustly confronted by worker solidarity, will spend all day grinding the faces of the poor.

Yup, you guessed it - the sector with all the strikes is the public sector, which is currently losing nigh on one million days every year to industrial action, compared to a mere 34,000 in the whole of the private sector. Taking account of the difference in numbers employed, the average public sector worker goes on strike well over 100 times more frequently than his private sector counterpart.

The chart throws up some other... er, striking facts.

First, Labour really did get an initial honeymoon period. For three blissful years from 1997, the public sector's losses to strike action even fell below the private sector's. True, Labour were sticking to tough Tory spending plans, but union quiescence was secured with the promise of paydays to come.

By 2000, things were starting to turn just a little sour: payday hadn't quite arrived as billed. Still, a few judicious handouts here and there were enough to keep the lid on for the 2001 election.

But post-election, things took a more serious turn, and by 2002 the firemen and various other groups were striking over pay. We of a certain age began stocking up on candles, flared trousers, and other necessities of life in the seventies.

But wait... at that very point, nice Mr Brown turned up with a huge wad of cash, and miraculously the strikes receded. Indeed, by the election year of 2005, the public sector was massaged right back to private sector levels of industrial contentment. They even exchanged lovers' vows at Warwick. Hurrah.

Alas, the contentment was short-lived. With the election over, the government briefly flirted with the idea of tackling the looming public sector pension crisis by ending retirement at 40. That triggered mass public sector strike action, and another surge in working days lost.

Naturally, our heroes folded on the pensions reforms pdq. But unfortunately for them and us, they were by then facing a much more difficult problem: the money was running out.

It's time for the final act of every Labour government of Tyler's lifetime - incomes policy and many, many more strikes.

At least Tyler has already laid in stocks of flared trousers. It's only a matter of days before some government minister comes on TV telling the rest of you there are plenty to go round and you shouldn't panic buy.

Don't listen to him.

PS For those of you too young to remember, take a look at this. And ask yourself - do you really want the Bee Gees to come back? Cos that's what's gonna happen.

1 comment:

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