For an idea of how industrial relations have improved with the unions over the past 14 years in 1996 1.303 million working days were lost compared to 2009 when just 445.000 were lost. With the long running BA dispute now settled, that number could fall again. So why now is the Conservative government trying to pick a fight with the unions?
It is hard to believe that when Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who spoke at the GMB conference in Brighton last Monday, suddenly and for some reason better known to himself decided to deliberately antagonise union delegates, why would he do that?
In comments that were described as inflammatory, he faced a furious backlash after threatening union leaders with tougher strike laws and was heckled, booed and jeered by angry delegates at the conference.
The right to strike is a fundamental right of any worker in this country to try to meddle with that is only deliberately stoking the fire to produce flames where previously there were none. Without a doubt the unions have come a long way they are a far cry from the way they used to operate and they use strike action as a very very last resort. This can be clearly demonstrated in the long running BA dispute, the only reason the BA strike lasted as long as it did was because of the stupidity and arrogance of one man, Willie Walsh, who thought he could just trash workers and their rights and ride rough shot over them and treat them appallingly, as soon as the idiot in the room was removed from the table, a resolution was found within weeks and peace has broken out with union bosses recommending BA workers accept the revised deal put by BA bosses.
Vince Cable himself said:
The Conservative party is in the wrong place on the economy and if this Tory government takes an antagonistic line to the trade union movement it could purposefully increase the risks of real clashes.
Is this some kind of psychological game being played by Cameron and Osborne to try to deliberately antagonise the unions, to try and win the argument of public opinion *before* any disputes take place?
The GMB has threatened a huge civil disobedience campaign if the government tries to change the rules on striking, this response would not be unexpected, there must be a reason why this has been raised now and why they forced Cable to do so.
Are the Tories scared that their measures are going to provoke a serious backlash leading to a 2011 - 2012 "winter of discontent"?
It is strange that this should surface now, when the economy is nose diving and Osborne's plans are coming under heavy fire, even from people who previously supported them and even the IMF support could only be best described a lukewarm.
Was this number 10 spin doctors trying to divert attention away from the trouble the chancellor finds himself in over his measures on the economy, after a disastrous weekend in terms of political news on the economy and the chancellor nowhere to be seen leading to calls asking if he was missing?
Or is this the government trying to get the British public onside because they know their austerity measures are not working, they know already that Osborne's target for clearing the deficit is already missed by at least 18 months, (if it is ever reached at all). More seriously do they know that they are going to introduce yet further extreme austerity measures in a bid to get their failed plan back on target, in time for tax give-aways at the next general election, thus increasing their chances of winning it?
They know this would cause a huge backlash from the unions - watch this space, because I believe this is exactly the modus operandi of the Tory-led government and they are in danger of becoming the idiot in the room!