Thursday, 14 July 2011

Public Sector Strikes??

The wave of public sector strikes are clearly stoked by a deep well of discontent among public service workers. While the recent strike is ostensibly about Government plans to reform public sector pension schemes but other points, which are fuelling the strikes, are anger are pay freezes and reductions in public funding and loss of jobs.

The political reality is that there is a broad consensus among the general public that the public sector deficit must be reduced and eliminated although there will always be controversy about the pace of reduction and where the axe should fall. One thing to dismiss is the idea that the cuts can be dealt with through efficiency savings - they cannot.

Real cuts in public services are inevitable and jobs will be lost. If we look at what other countries have done some (e.g. Spain) have gone for reductions in public sector pay and smaller job losses. Such an approach might be applied in the UK and could save many thousands of jobs. However, it would create a huge dilemma for trade unions, what is the most important thing to protect, the pay of members in employment or the numbers employed

Another factor to consider is what is called the inter-generational balance. People like me, the so-called baby boomers, had the advantage of free university places, a free NHS and a final salary pension scheme. The reality is that as we get older we will be placing increasing burdens on the health and social care system and extracting pensions for our state schemes well above what we have contributed to the scheme. Forget -soaking the rich or - squeezing the bankers. It will not happen other than through tokenism. The only people who can pay for this are our children and grandchildren who face university loans, high mortgage payments and inadequate pensions. Are we being fair to future generations by trying to protect our own benefits.

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