Public sector: Don't strike, change union leaders!

London Strike

Teachers, firemen, civil servants, passport staff and health workers are all going on strike tomorrow in disputes over pay and pensions.

As many as 1 million public sector workers are expected strike in one of the biggest walkouts since the 1926 general strike.

Since the recession, austerity has hit the public sector hard with pay freezes, cuts in pension contributions and changes in the retirement age. These pay freezes have actually resulted in a reduction in pay in real terms, with the cost of living rising over the last five years.

Many public sector workers are adamant they don’t want to strike, but feel there is no alternative after years of suffering.

Austerity has been crippling, and considering we are only halfway through the proposed cuts, there is still a long way to go.

So why are we going through austerity? Because of the failings of our banks? The failings of our economy? The failings of housing market? These are all the failings of the private sector, not the public sector.

So why is it that our firemen, our nurses and our teachers are the ones who face the burden of these failings? This seems inherently unfair.

Public sector staff have suffered with pay freezes, while bonuses and pay in the private sector are slowly on the rise. The public sector has been continually squeezed and branded inefficient, while the private sector gets comfortable bailout packages. The public sector faces the strain while the private sector grows.

I’m no Marxist, but even I can see that that’s not right.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the Conservatives for this; I think many miss a trick and immediately point a finger at Cameron. Labour would be no different. This ‘defence’ of the private sector has been in place since the 80’s, and it’s nothing short of sad to see the difficulties that public sector staff are going through.

As necessary as these strikes are, ultimately I feel they’ll have no real impact. This government and whoever the next government is will focus economic growth through the private sector, and focus austerity through the public. The private sector will continue to grow and austerity will not stop. The average worker will continue to suffer the most and these strikes will result in no change to that.

No government will want to look weak by bowing down to the demands of ‘militant’ strikes. What is needed is that the unions elect strong outspoken leaders. Bob Crowe was the last of that breed and for these unions to be successful they need a Crowe-esque leader.

Love him or hate him, he represented his union brilliantly and won many of his battles with the Mayor of London. Yes his union had more walkouts than any other, but it was not the strikes alone that won him his battles, his presence and his words were the effective measure that pushed him to victory.

That’s what these unions need. Tomorrow’s strikes will be ineffective because of that. With no strong leader tomorrow’s walkout will be completely ineffective.

Change leadership and you might change the outcome.