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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kissing and making up

We are about to embark on one of the largest public strikes for some time because talks between the unions and government have supposedly broken down and the position is irretrievable, and yet according to today's Independent, that may not be the case at all.

The paper says that a meeting between Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, and Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, alongside other union leaders, could be scheduled for next week.

This is likely to lead to two weeks of "intensive negotiations" in an attempt to strike a broad deal on pension reform by Christmas. The paper adds that senior sources on both sides of the dispute say that, despite the increased public rhetoric surrounding the strike, a deal to head off future industrial action is "entirely achievable".

If that is the case then why are these strikes even taking place?
Could the reason be that ministers would not have come to the bargaining table unless the strength of feeling was made apparent - and might still renege if action is called off? As a former civil servant you will know the disingenuous nature of political administrations.
Or equally it could be that the Unions wanted to have their day before getting down to talks.
I am disappointed to see you taking this kind of stance. The news that the number of planned public sector job cuts will rise from 400,000 to 710,000 should be enough to bring people out onto the streets. Or do you only support the right to protest on issues you approve?
If the strike was about that then clearly I would take a different stance, but that is not the object of the action. The consequences of Labour messing up the economy are far-reaching.
I'm sorry, but the public sector need to get a grip. These strikes make my blood boil.

Public sector workers are paid by private sector workers. Over the last 13 years the number of public sector workers has exploded, and where the taxes of private sector workers aren't enough, we borrow on the backs of private sector workers and their future labour to pay for it.

Now, what are these private sector workers paying for? They are paying for public sector workers that already have better pay, more holidays, and pensions they can only dream of.

Sound sensible? That a newly qualified teacher earns more than the average solicitor? That a paralegal at a local authority can earn up to £40k, more than most qualified solicitors in private practice?

That an ordinary council office employee earns £25k, where the equivalent in the private sector tops out at £15k, without the holidays and pensions, AND the person earning £15k is PAYING for the public sector to have this?

These strikes are absolutely disgusting.

The public sector are basically saying, "please tax the private sector more, or even borrow more, to ensure that they continue to pay for us to have better salaries than them and better pensions, thankyou x"

How about the public sector workers resign in protest and go and get jobs in the private sector? THEN they will see what "hardship" really means.
Matt> I don't quite understand your comment. If government can be reduced in size surely that is a positive thing? We need small government that costs less to the tax payer.
It is disheartening that those Liberal Democrats in positions of influence seem so out of touch on this issue with many public sector workers who voted for them in the last general election. I'm striking tomorrow, which is not something I do lightly. It's a shame you didn't give equal prominence to the article in this Sunday's Observer, which suggested some misleading comment had come from government about the extent that most people will be significantly worse off as a consequence of these changes.
Alex, I am not saying that the pension proposals are right or even that workers are wrong to reject the offer as it stands. I agree that many will be worse off as a result of the changes and fully understand the anger at that. What I am saying is that this action is premature because talks are still on-going and are scheduled to continue for weeks.
The public sector needs to wake up, the private sector can no longer afford to pay for their pensions and extra benefits. Their numbers have exploded and their pension 'entitlements' are too costly for average private sector workers to pay for.
Are you really implying that the government will make a better offer? If that was the case why haven't they being burning the mid night oil in the past fortnight instead of making silly speeches about 'union militants'. Pensions is an issue which all political parties have to face because of the aging population.But you can't treat public sector workers as if they all earn the same and will all get the same pension. Most as you are aware are amongst the lowest paid people in the country and their pensions are pretty small. Just as the savings from the changes are by 2015 if you look at the figures. As a councillor you should also be pretty worried if the changes produce lower contributions because members drop out of the local government scheme. Contributions are due to drop by 13% already because of job losses. Your government's decision yesterday to increase those job losses will only make matters worse. If contributions fall by 20% then many local government pension schems will in four to five years have a negative cash flow. Local authorities will be asked to increase their contributions which can only be achieved by either cuts in services or increases in council tax. Yesterday's Autumn Statement clearly showed that the Liberal Democrat gamble in 2010 has failed. My former student Alex Bozman is dead right when he argues that it is time for Liberal Democrats at least on the left of the party to return to the principles that attracted millions to vote for the party in 2011. Liberals such as Keynes and Beveridge must be spinning in their graves as the Orange Book heirs to the National Liberals take the party once again towards what is obviously going to be eventual union with the Tories.
Jeff, the government made a better offer two and a half weeks ago but the unions have not responded to it. Instead they continued with the strike action.

Actually, all public sector workers are not being treated the same. There are separate negotiations for each scheme and the government's offer is designed to protect the lower paid workers as far as possible.

As for job losses, I would be interested in Labour's alternative way to control the deficit, because so far Ed Balls has failed to set it out in detail. It is no wonder that polls show people have no confidence in Labour's economic confidence.

Actually, the Lib Dems in government are sticking to their principles including index linking pensions, bolstering child tax credits for people on low incomes, and reducing tax for the low paid, including taking 50,000 people in Wales out of tax altogether.
Interesting story in the FT that Danny Alexander wants a joint manifesto with the Tories at the next election. Who knows he could be the next Selwyn Lloyd who started off as a Liberal in the 1930s and ended up a Tory Chancellor!
Even if that is true, which I doubt, it is not going to happen.
You obviously didn't watch Newsnight where Alexander talked about agreeing a cuts programme with the Toies o be implemented after 2015. The problem for the coalition is that the failure of Plan A means that another £30 billion of cuts and probably more are now required in the first two year of the new Parliament. This has now changed the dynamic of the 2015 UK election with all the parties now beig expected to set out their ideas of where the £30 billion will come from. Not easy for anyone but much harder for colation partners who don't sing from the same hymn sheet. If voters like what the Tories are saying then why vote for the junior partner many will argue. I noted Lord Oakeshoot's comment which supports what I've been saying since last year that the end result of all of this could be that the right wing of your party will end up in their natural home which is the Tory Party. If this does happen then it wil be third time that Liberals have joined with the Tories. First we had the Liberal Unionists under Joe Chamberlain. Next the national Libberals in the 1930s and I suppose we will have Lord Clegg and his friends after 2015.
That is a different thing of course. Long term economic planning beyond a General Election is what Government's do. As for the rest, it is all speculation. Whose crystal ball is best? We will have to see.
All governments engage in long term planning to win elections. But this is a Coalition governemt which makes it much harder particularly in a country not used to coalitions in peace time. The 1930s National government although technically a coalition was really a Tory government in all but name. It was easy for them to win in 1935 and they would have won in 1939 or1940 if war had not intervened. The problem faced by all the parties is that one of the battlegrounds in 2015 will now be where will the £30 billion + cuts in the first two years of the new Parliament be found. Labour at last is beginning to realise this and will by 2015 have worked out where the cuts will come. If they also replaces Ed Balls who carries too much baggage with someone like Rachel Reeves than they have a chance of regaining some economic credibility. The Tories also will have no problems in setting out a cuts agenda and they probably will also be building up a war chest to offer some tax cuts and the idea of major changes to state pensions if they win. All of this leaves the Liberal Democrats in a difficult position. Do you follow Danny Alexander and sail into battle with cuts close to the Tory model or do you move closer to Labour thinking and offer the possibility to voters that you might a la Germany's FPD jump ship. German voters understand such tactics but will the British particularly when Leaders debates where Clegg did so well in 2010 will be much harder in 2015 as people will look for the slightest difference between Clegg and Cameron. We are entering uncharted waters but last year's council elections in England and next year's local elections will probabkly show that the Liberal Democrats will have the most difficult hand to play in 2015 with the collapse of Plan A.
Maybe we should compare crystal balls nearer to 2015 Jeff.
These gold plated public sector pensions are not fully funded and as such represent a threat to the existence of the UK. As a nation the UK can't afford these ridiculous public pensions. There has to be a major haircut or we go the way of Greece.
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