Politicians Resolve Tested as Public Sector Strikes Commence
As up to 750,000 start industrial action, the resolve of both the coalition government & the opposition will be tested.
For the Conservatives, Tory stalwart & architect of much of the current employment law legislation covering industrial action, Lord Tebbit urged caution over changing the current strict regulations that trade unions have to comply with.
For the Lib Dems, Vince Cable – who recently warned about the pressure to act if strikes should impose damage – has since appeared to backtrack, suggesting his words were misinterpreted.
Perhaps recognising that changes to the law are not likely, Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove used an interview this weekend to suggest teachers could damage their professional reputation if they go on strike. (This despite the fact that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, one of the unions taking part in the industrial action, has never taken national strike action in its history – extending back to 1884.)
For the opposition, while the Labour Party in Wales has indicated its cabinet ministers won’t cross picket lines, Ed Miliband’s office has indicated he expects his Westminster Labour MPs to do just that.
Unison – one of the biggest trade unions, representing more than 1.2 million workers – has announced this week that it will not be balloting its members while current negotiations on public sector pensions are continuing, and this decision may give the government just the wriggle room it would like: as this week’s strikes are not as coordinated or disruptive as they may have been, with no immediate sign this will change Vince Cable is likely to argue new legislation on industrial action is not necessary… although if the negotiations fail to address the major gap between the unions & government, his rhetoric on new strike laws may yet be tested.