Archive for December, 2011

Why did I strike? I’ll tell you why….

December 2, 2011

It has been a good week to be a trade unionist. The jury is probably still out on how effective the strike will be, but it felt absolutely the right course of action. It is not just about pensions either, or about the narrow agenda of fighting for my own conditions of service. No, it went well beyond that. For the first time I can remember, it was about a large section of the workforce coming out just to show that some things just aren’t right. It’s not right to prioritise business objectives over and above the core aims of public sector services like health and education, which simply are not there to make money. These services should be measured against the criteria which they are supposed to meet, and funded appropriately, with measures in place to ensure reasonable levels of efficiency. Cutting to the bone, and expecting a half-decent service just isn’t intelligent governance.

This is all bad enough. What makes the frustration harder to bear is that the UK government is clearly not going to even approach its targets for deficit reduction. This is quite simply because they are going the wrong way about this. High unemployment is inevitably going to lead to fewer taxes in the coffers, and less money to pay the interest and the bills. Did these people learn nothing from the last hundred years of economic theory and, more pertinently, the actual experience of depressions? The time to invest in the public sector is when there is a global recession, just like John Maynard Keynes said. You get more for your money, you keep the workforce occupied, and you collect the proceeds in taxes. Ok, you need to balance this against the risks of hyper inflation, but when did we last have anything approaching those conditions?

The trouble is, this reasoning is never aired, because the UK government passes off dogma as pragmatism. Well, I suppose it sounds half reasonable; times are hard, so we need to spend less money. This may work at the domestic level, but it is no way to run a national economy. “You can’t spend your way out of a recession!” says Cameron – has he tried any other way of getting out? That’s like saying you can’t climb your way out of a hole.

These debates don’t happen in parliament, and there is no significant resistance to the collation ideologues in the press either. Fortunately, there is another place to make these points – via the trade unions. They may have been on the decline since the 1980s, but look out, I think that may be all about to change.  It is certainly worth a shot, and some of us were giving it our best one last Wednesday.  If you haven’t already, you should think about joining us.