As many as 2 million public service workers could go on strike tomorrow. They oppose the Government’s proposed pension ‘reforms’ which they say mean having to pay more in contributions, work longer, and receive a reduced income in retirement.
One opinion poll suggests 61 per cent of the public supports the one day walkout. The cause of health workers and teachers is always going to get a sympathetic hearing, at least at first.
But it’s unlikely given the likely disruption in schools, hospitals, and airports and much else that backing for industrial action will remain so solid if strikes become a regular event.
Both sides have embarked propaganda campaigns in support of their case but they have generated more heat than light.
Despite media attempts to spell out the issues fairly like Polly Curtis in yesterday’s Guardian and the BBC today, I for one remain bewildered about the pros and cons of strike action or of the changes that have provoked it.
I do know though that the old certainties about the public v. private sector work balance have changed.
When I entered the workplace over 40 years ago it was understood the private sector paid better than the public but the latter could expect better working conditions led by a superior pension structure.
Today average salaries favour the public services while at the same time clinging to the pension advantages.
If Unison and the other public sector unions leading the fight hope to maintain the support of the public they must do a better job getting their message across.