Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Government Picks Fight With Unions

Vince Cable
Over the last few years the number of days lost through strike action has fallen considerably, the decline in strike action started to steadily decrease when Labour came to power in 1997.
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:

“Despite occasional blips, I know that strike levels remain historically low, especially in the private sector. On that basis, and assuming this pattern continues, the case for changing strike law is not compelling."

Having said this why go to a union conference where delegates are worried about workers losing their jobs, having their pay frozen and their fundamental human rights watered down already by the Conservative government and in the current volatile economic climate, would a Liberal Democrat of all people deliberately threaten to erode the rights of workers further by threatening to change the strike law? This was like waving a red flag to a very large and very angry bull.

Mr Cable looked lost, hesitant and lonely stuck up there delivering a speech which he knew would inflame those delegates, I cannot believe that he would purposefully do this.

Later when Number 10 were asked to comment they said they had no plans to change the law, yet Cable's speech would have had to be okayed by former BBC employee Craig Oliver who is now David Cameron's Director of Communications, it is inconceivable that Oliver would not have realised that this would create tensions between the government and the unions, so it begs the question if Vince Cable was forced to include that  part of his speech by David Cameron and George Osborne as some sort of payback for his recent outspoken views during the campaign for the AV referendum? Looking at Mr Cable on that rostrum he looked dejected, isolated, embarrassed and totally humiliated. Take this a little further we have to ask if Nick Clegg was aware of this and if he thought it was a good idea that a senior minister from the Liberal Democrat party, a party that is supposed to promoted people's rights, make such inflammatory comments?

This points to yet more friction behind the scenes of this coalition government which is now beginning to implode from within and fall to pieces in front of our eyes. Yet the right wing press still fail (or refuse) to pick up on this - why?
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!


Anonymous said...

Gracie the only people left to punish are the sick and disabled and regretfully that's what's going to happen and as we cant fight back the conservatives will probably win this battle but we will go down fighting.

it will be like watching cape fear where the government will try to drown us one at a time but there will be some of us that will keep surfacing only to be held under again but none the less they will be some survivors to tell the tale in the coming years like in any war there always is you cant kill off everyone

Gracie Samuels said...

Hi Fourbanks

The reason why the Tories pick on the weakest in society is because they think they cannopt fight back, don't forget the Tories are the "nasty" party, they are essentially bullies and the way to treat bullies is to stand up to them which is what we are doing and will continue to do. They will not be allowed to get away with their despicable behaviour and already their lies are coming back to haunt them.